Metal Plasma Thrusters

AASC has developed a patented metal plasma thruster (MPT) for attitude keeping and orbit raising or lowering of small satellites. A vacuum arc generates a metal plasma plume that accelerates into space at 8.1 km/s – 23.5 km/s to generate thrust (10-15 μN/W). Different metals provide a range of Specific Impulse from 826 s (Pt) up to 2400 s (Al). A typical MPT uses molybdenum for an Isp of 1700 s and single impulse bit of 300 μNs with rep rate determining average power and thrust. The MPT uses solid metal fuel with no moving parts and operates using a 45 V Power Processor Unit (PPU).

Metal Plasma Thruster Firing in a Vacuum Chamber

Applications

Thousands of Nano- and Micro-Satellites will be launched into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) over the next decade, for resource/disaster management, weather and internet coverage. AASC’s MPTs provide a low-mass complement or alternative to other onboard propulsion for 3U – 100U SATS, especially for attitude keeping or orbital maneuvers.

The modular MPT may be scaled up/down for larger/smaller spacecraft or higher ΔV orbital changes (LEO-GEO etc.). The flexibility and performance of the MPT design gives mission engineers a variety of options to meet requirements for unique small SAT applications. A 1U thruster can provide a 12U satellite with 200 m/s of ΔV

Specifications

  • Non-toxic, inert, solid metal propellant
  • No moving parts, no plumbing, no liquid or gaseous fuel
  • 3x more fuel efficient than the Teflon® PPT, lower cost and higher reliability than an electrospray thruster
  • 1/2U, 1U, and custom configurations available for any size satellite.
  • Power scales with rep rate and consumes 30 W per pulse.
  • Operate at up to 100 W in a 1U thruster for 1 mN average thrust
  • Interfaces directly to 7-45 V spacecraft bus
  • Impulse bits can be tailored to mission requirements down to 1 μNs
  • Total Impulse: 3500 Ns/U