NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission Nears Completion

Green Propellant Infusion Mission in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

by Lance Davis
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA just validated a new type of propellant, or fuel, for spacecraft of all sizes. Instead of toxic hydrazine, space missions can use a less toxic, “green” propellant and the compatible technologies designed to go along with it. In a little over a year since launch, NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) successfully proved a never-before-used propellant and propulsion system work as intended, demonstrating both are practical options for future missions.

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AFWERX Awards Accion Systems $2.25 Million Phase II SBIR Contract

Air Force Award Will Drive Advanced Development and Commercialization of Multi-Mode In-Space Propulsion System.

BOSTON, Mass., August 11, 2020 (Accion Systems PR — In-space propulsion pioneer Accion Systems announced today that it has been awarded a follow-on Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract through AFWERX, in partnership with Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), and the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN). The award recognizes the successful completion of the Phase I SBIR contact earlier this year and exciting promise for Accion’s TILE ion electrospray propulsion for use in national security missions. 

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Exotrail Signs Contract with CNES to Develop Cluster of Thrusters

An artistic rendering of a satellite firing with a Exotrail ExoMG cluster of four thrusters. (Credit: Exotrail)

PARIS (Exotrail PR) — Exotrail has signed a contract with the French Space Agency, CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales), for a development project concerning the clusterisation of several Hall Effect Thrusters.

This Research & Technology (R&T) contract will allow Exotrail to demonstrate its capability to use several thrusters together in order to reach higher thrust and power for larger satellites’ needs.

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Exotrail Raises 11 Million Euros to Become Leader in On-orbit Smallsat Transportation

Exotrail’s vision: onboard propulsion, on-orbit transportation and on-orbit servicing. (Credits: Real Dream, Exotrail)

PARIS, July 16, 2020 (Exotrail PR) — Exotrail has raised 11 million euros ($13 million) to become a leader in on-orbit transportation for small satellites.

This Series A round was led by two European Venture Capital firms, Karista (through Paris Region Venture Fund) and Innovacom. IXO Private Equity, NCI-Waterstart, Turenne Capital and returning investors 360 Capital, Irdi Soridec Gestion and Bpifrance also invested.

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ESA Awards €1 Million to NanoAvionics to Develop New Satellite Propulsion Technologies

VILNIUS, Lithuania (NanoAvioncs PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) has granted 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to nanosatellite mission integrator NanoAvionics to develop key components for small satellite propulsion systems.

The new propulsion technologies, with a thrust of up to 5N, aim to further reduce the cost of small satellite projects while making each satellite more reliable, propellant supply chains safer, and constellations more economical. Based on those components a new generation of propulsion systems for small satellites will be used in future ESA missions, and available to commercial satellite operators across the world.

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ESA Moves Ahead on Low-cost Reusable Rocket Engine

A gas generator produced by additive layer manufacturing completed two test campaigns in 2017 and 2018 at the P8 test bench at the DLR German Aerospace Center’s Lampoldshausen testing facility which provided valuable information on the proposed innovative design. (Credit: ArianeGroup)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s Prometheus is the precursor of ultra-low-cost rocket propulsion that is flexible enough to fit a fleet of new launch vehicles for any mission and will be potentially reusable.

At the Space19+ Council meeting in Seville, Spain last November, ESA received full funding to bring the current Prometheus engine design to a technical maturity suitable for industry. Developed by ArianeGroup, Prometheus is now seen as key in the effort to prepare competitive future European access to space.

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NASA Funds Six Small Spacecraft Technologies for Development

NASA has selected six small satellite technology projects for continued development under phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The selected proposals included: two projects focused on in-space propulsion; two systems for de-orbiting satellites; one project focused on radiation shielding for small spacecraft; and an improved turbo-pump for small satellite launch vehicles.

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Citadel Space Systems. Applied Ion Systems Partner on New Electric Propulsion and Nanosat Technology

OXFORDSHIRE, UK (Citadel Space Systems PR) – Citadel Space Systems Ltd (CSS) announced today that it has formalised a collaborative agreement with US-based Applied Ion Systems LLC (AIS) to develop a revolutionary new type of electric propulsion for nanosatellites.  Using a type of thruster technology called electrospray propulsion, Applied Ion Systems hope to develop a set of thruster systems that out-perform the current market in cost, efficiency, power and lifetime.

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York Space Systems Unveils Hydra Mission Series for Launch Starting in 2020

DENVER (York Space Systems PR) — York Space Systems, an aerospace company specializing in providing turn-key customer solutions and the manufacturer and operator of standardized spacecraft for rapid deployment, today announced its Hydra Mission Series, slated for launch beginning later this year.

The Hydra series leverages York Space Systems’ fully qualified operational spacecraft design and standardized payload interfaces, as well as an enhanced production and integration facility for government and commercial manifested payload missions. Entry to orbit timelines for the Hydra series are as short as three months from delivery of customer hardware to York Space Systems’ headquarters in Denver, Colorado. 

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A New Type of Fire, the Fuel of the Future?

Sparkler (Credit: CC BY 2.0–Markus Grossalber https://flic.kr/p/dzwPs9)

KIRUNA, Sweden (ESA PR) — Later this month a Texus rocket will launch from Esrange, Sweden, that will travel about 260 km upwards and fall back to Earth offering researchers six minutes of zero gravity. Their experiment? Burning metal powder to understand a new type of fire.

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Aethera’s New RF Power Processing Unit for Ad Astra’s VASIMR Engine Completes Full Power Acceptance Tests

WEBSTER, Texas USA and HALIFAX, NS, Canada – A new generation radio-frequency (RF) Power Processing Unit (PPU) for the VASIMR engine, built by Aethera Technologies Ltd. of Canada, has completed a series of full power acceptance tests at Ad Astra Rocket Company’s Texas facility near Houston. The unit completed these tests on August 12 by operating in a thermal steady-state with no anomalies at its full power rating of 120 kW.

The RF PPU is now ready to be incorporated into Ad Astra’s vacuum facility so that it can be tested with the VX- 200SS VASIMR prototype. These tests are part of Ad Astra’s ongoing program under the NASA NextSTEP partnership contract.

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Momentus Announces $25.5 Million Series A Funding Round

Vigoride (Credit: Momentus)

SANTA CLARA, Calif., July 17, 2019 (Momentus PR) — Momentus (http://www.momentus.space), a provider of in-space shuttle services that move satellites between orbits, today announced a $25.5mm series A investment round led by Prime Movers Lab and featuring investment from Y Combinator, the Lerner Family, the University of Wyoming Foundation, Quiet Capital, Mountain Nazca, ACE & Company, Liquid 2 Ventures, Drake Management, and others.

This round has brought the total investment amount for Momentus to $34MM. The investment will be used to continue development and in-space testing for Momentus’ Vigoride and Vigoride Extended in-space shuttles. The company also plans to accelerate hiring and expand research/manufacturing facilities at Momentus’ Santa Clara, CA headquarters.

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Masten Space Systems Selected for NASA SBIR Award

Mojave’s Masten Space Systems has been selected for a NASA contract to continue development of technology that will improve the 3-D manufacturing of rocket engine injectors.

Masten work on its PermiAM system will be funded under a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award. The contract is worth up to $750,000.

“Masten is currently focusing on the propulsion elements of PermiAM with direct applicability to small satellite launch vehicles, upper stage engines, and planetary landers in support of the NASA [Commercial Lunar Payload Services] program,” the company said in its proposal summary.

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NIAC Phase II Award: Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions

Self-guided beamed propulsion (Credit: Chris Limbach)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase II Award: Up to $500,000 for 2 Years

Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions
Chris Limbach
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

New and revolutionary propulsion systems are needed to undertake challenging long-distance missions, such as to the Kuiper belt, Oort cloud and nearby stellar systems. We propose an innovative beamed propulsion architecture that would enable interstellar missions to Proxima Centauri b at nearly 10% the speed of light.

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Boeing Invests in Accion Systems

CHICAGO, Oct. 10, 2018 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced its investment in Accion Systems Inc., a Boston, Mass.,-based startup pioneering scalable electric propulsion technology to transform satellite capabilities in and beyond Earth’s orbit.

Accion’s new Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray (TILE) in-space propulsion system aims to increase the lifespan and maneuverability of satellites and other vehicles in space. Leveraging a non-toxic, ionic liquid propellant and postage stamp-size thrusters, the TILE system is smaller, lighter and more cost-effective than traditional ion engines.

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