Solid-fueled Micro Colloid Thruster

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012

$125K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

TDA Research, Inc.
12345 W. 52nd Ave. Array
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Research Institution

University of Colorado Boulder
572 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
Institution POC

Abstract

Nanosatellites are receiving increased interest since they are proving reliable for surveillance, communication and other space missions. Also, the possibility of launching "constellations" of them offers unique capabilities for low-cost experimentation, sensing and communications in space. In comparison to larger spacecraft, their development time and costs have reduced and their launch costs are low. As a result several agencies have recently launched nanosats to test their ability to perform different missions. Unfortunately, none of these nanosats have had onboard propulsion systems, which would provide greater flexibility to position the satellite throughout the mission. There are several promising thruster concepts for nanosats which could provide attitude control and orbital transfer maneuvers (uN to mN thrust levels, respectively). Of these, the colloid thruster is most attractive since it is highly efficient even when scaled down to the micro scale. However, further development is still needed to meet the power, weight and volume constraints for fitment within a nanosat. Therefore, TDA Research, Inc. and the University of Colorado-Boulder propose to develop a solid-fueled micro colloid thruster. In Phase I we will melt a solid salt and supply it to the micro volcano emitter that will be used in Taylor cone experiments to determine its operating characteristics and evaluate its overall performance.