Monopropellant Cubesat Propulsion System

Period of Performance: 08/21/2015 - 05/21/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

12173 Montague Street Array
Pacoima, CA 91331
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT:In recent work for the Air Force, Ultramet demonstrated nearly one thousand restarts with repeatable pulse performance and steady-state burn characteristics using AF-M315E monopropellant and a novel ignition system. Based on the results of that project, Ultramet received a Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) award from the Air Force to further develop the technology into a flightweight system, including qualification testing of a 22-N AF-M315E thruster by Moog-ISP to bring the technology to TRL 8. In the proposed project, Ultramet and Moog-ISP will leverage the previous and ongoing Air Force work to develop a 1-N AF-M315E-compatible cubesat monopropellant propulsion system design concept that utilizes an Ultramet chamber/nozzle, and conduct a feasibility study on a cubesat-sized AF-M315E-compatible rim-rolling metallic diaphragm tank. Scaleability of the igniter technology will also be demonstrated at the 1-N level. Phase II will involve fabrication and hot-fire testing of a flight-like cubesat monopropellant propulsion system and bring the technology to TRL 8. Phase II teaming partners will include propulsion system integrator Moog-ISP, satellite integrator Ball Aerospace, and Aerospace Corporation for technical oversight.BENEFIT:The proposed technology will eliminate the catalyst degradation and washout issues plaguing AF-M315E catalysts, make hydrazine systems more robust, and/or simplify ignition/restart of non-hypergolic propellants. Potential applications will be numerous as it will enable use of advanced monopropellants that offer performance beyond that of monopropellant hydrazine and bipropellant NTO/MMH. The ignition system can be used in attitude control and apogee engines for commercial and government satellites and divert and attitude control system engines for kinetic kill vehicles. The use of toxic propellants such as hydrazine will be eliminated in gas generators on military aircraft and fuel pressurization systems for tactical missiles. Because such a fast ramp rate and high ultimate temperature can be achieved, it may also be applicable to use in divert and attitude control systems for kinetic kill vehicles and other missile defense systems. Potential military, civil, and commercial space applications for the foam igniter system are orbit transfer, maneuvering, station keeping, and attitude control for satellites. Any agency with satellites employing hydrazine propulsion will benefit.