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Precise Thrust Actuation by a Micro RF Ion Engine

Award Information

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2009 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Busek Co. Inc.
11 Tech Circle Natick, MA 01760-1023
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2009
Title: Precise Thrust Actuation by a Micro RF Ion Engine
Agency: NASA
Contract: NNX09CD99P
Award Amount: $99,993.00


Busek proposes to develop a radio-frequency discharge, gridded micro ion engine that produces ýýN level of thrust precisely adjustable over a wide dynamic thrust range. Rf discharge was chosen to eliminate the life-limiting internal cathode of a dc discharge ion engine. Thrust actuation on the order of 0.03ýýN resolution is proposed with a closed-loop control system. This controlling scheme can be achieved by varying only one parameter: the rf power with a feedback from the beam current. Uniquely, the rf ion engine can also produce enough thrust for coarse constellation corrections or reconfigurations. Argon will be the base-lined propellant to ease concerns of propellant condensing on optics or other cryogenic surfaces. This feature can be critical for close formation flying as micro-thrusters such as field emission electric propulsion (FEEP) and colloids could potentially coat neighboring spacecraft. The proposed rf ion engine, combined with Busek's space-qualified carbon nanotube field emission cathode (developed for the ST7 DRS mission) as a neutralizer, will create a new opportunity in precise thrust actuation. Further implementation of a simple propellant feed system and power electronics will create a compact, low power, high performance spacecraft propulsion system.

Principal Investigator:

Kurt Hohman
Principal Investigator

Business Contact:

Judy Budny
Business Official
Small Business Information at Submission:

Busek Co., Inc.
11 Tech Circle Natick, MA 01760

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