Firestar Selected for SBIR Contract for Green Propulsion System

On Thursday, NASA announced the selection of 39 proposals for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards. Parabolic Arc will be looking at several of the proposals being undertaken by companies we have been following. This post looks at Firestar Engineering, a company based in Mojave, Calif., that is developing non-toxic propellant that will be tested at the International Space Station next year.

Firestar Engineering, LLC
Mojave, CA

PROPOSAL TITLE: Low Energy Electronic Ignition System for NOFBX Thrusters
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Propulsion Technologies

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5


NOFBX propulsion technology is being developed actively for a number of applications including a flight experiment on the International Space Station NOFBX propellant has unique electrical properties that allow the potential for development of an extremely low energy ignition mechanism when coupled with the design of an NOFBX combustion chamber. This has the potential for dramatically reducing the volume, mass, voltage, and electromagnetic interference (EMI) emissions. The development we are proposing is a very low energy ignition system that utilizes the unique attributes of the NOFBXTM propellant that minimizes the volume, mass, and voltage of a block redundant system to be used in NOFBX propulsion systems.


The proposed igniter development is specific to NOFBX™ propellant-based systems. Unlike other liquid propellant options, NOFBX™ propellant has a low energy ignition threshold. Existing igniters are designed with much higher energy spark requirements to address the challenge of reliable ignition of other spark-ignited liquid propulsion technologies. Therefore, there are no igniters currently on the market that are well suited to NOFBX™ engines, which is the motivation for this proposal. Because this igniter would be manufactured and sold as part of NOFBX™ propulsion systems, the market for this technology is closely tied to adoption and use of NOFBX™ propulsion technology.


NOFBX technology is currently being developed under a NASA BAA for flight on the International Space Station as a commercial flight experiment. The proposed activity would upgrade the ignition element of this flight system reducing mass, volume, and power of the device as well as conductive and radiative emission characteristics. Given the commercial interest in the NOFBX propulsion technology, we anticipate this block upgrade ignition module to be readily integrated into the NOFBX product line being developed by Innovation Space Propulsion Systems, the licensee of NOFBX technology.