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Bimodal Bismuth Vapor Hall Thruster

Award Information

Department of Defense
Office of the Secretary of Defense
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2004 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Busek Co. Inc.
11 Tech Circle Natick, MA -
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 2
Fiscal Year: 2004
Title: Bimodal Bismuth Vapor Hall Thruster
Agency / Branch: DOD / OSD
Contract: FA8650-04-C-2473
Award Amount: $744,354.00


Busek is developing bismuth vapor Hall thruster systems for bimodal and high thrust missions. In Phase I, Busek designed and analyzed a bismuth thruster system. An extensive series of experiments led to a pressure regulated liquid bismuth feed system design. Bismuth will be stored as a compact solid on the spacecraft. Most significant feed system elements were tested. Numerical modeling showed the bismuth discharge to be highly efficient; bismuth thrusters will outperform similar xenon thrusters. Maximum thrust to power (T/P) and thrust to system mass (T/M) will both increase substantially. Bimodal capabilities benefit; high T/P is possible throughout the range 1000 sec < Isp < 3000 sec. The tenuous bismuth charge exchange plasma leads to less thruster erosion than observed in a xenon system; this means high total impulse (longer lifetime), and helps mitigate spacecraft interactions, which were scoped out by Aerospace Corporation under subcontract. In Phase II, Busek will design, and build a complete bismuth Hall thruster system. Performance and plume testing will lead to an optimized, deliverable prototype system. A cooled beam condenser will facilitate testing in modest facilities. Busek will also design a full-scale thruster to be built in a follow-on program.

Principal Investigator:

James Szabo
Research Scientist

Business Contact:

Judy Budny
Contracts Administrator
Small Business Information at Submission:

11 Tech Circle Natick, MA 01760

EIN/Tax ID: 042881247
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No