High Temperature Catalyst for Nontoxic Monopropellants

Period of Performance: 03/15/2000 - 04/15/2001


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Sienna Technologies, Inc.
19501 144th Avenue NE Array
Woodinville, WA 98072
Principal Investigator


Hydrazine monopropellants have been tested for post-boost propulsion systems on ICBMs and for divert propulsion on interceptors. Surveillance, early warning, communication, navigation, weather satellites for the U. S. armed services may be using hydrazine propulsion subsystems similar to those in commercial satellites. In addition, upper stages of launch vehicles placing USAF payloads into orbit use hydrazine monopropellants for roll control and propellant settling maneuvers prior to orbit insertion burns. There has been increasing concern about toxicity of hydrazine(s). Safety regulations have been tightened to the point where fueling at the launch site has become a significant part of the overall cost of a spacecraft launch. Nontoxic monopropellants as replacement for hydrazine promise faster and more economical fueling operations, resulting in lower life-cycle cost. Catalysts and thermal bed materials proposed here as an ignition technique promise to achieve the same reliability as that already demonstrated with hydrazine thrusters. The product of this SBIR has near-term applicability to USAF programs and ties in directly with nontoxic propellant thruster development in progress at other government centers and NASA contractors. More than half of all U. S. satellites launched between 1989 and 1999 were for commercial applications. U. S. launch vehicle upper stages such as Delta II, ATLAS-II, ATHENA or PEGASUS are built by commercial launch service providers for both commercial and government payload customers and have to be fueled with hydrazine. In most cases, hydrazine monopropellant can be replaced by a nontoxic monopropellant with resulting cost-saving benefits that would be passed on to customers like USAF and other branches of the U. S. Government. In a few cases, it may be possible to substitute existing systems with a drop-in replacement using a nontoxic propellant. The potential market for the catalyst to be developed under this SBIR and its Phase II and Phase III follow-on contracts is the same as that for Shell 405 catalyst. Our material may eventually replace Shell 405 in most monopropellant thruster and gas generator applications.