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Flexible Fuel Electron Source for Space Propulsion Systems

Award Information
Agency: Department of Defense
Branch: Air Force
Contract: FA8649-23-P-0404
Agency Tracking Number: FX22D-OTCSO1-0249
Amount: $74,979.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: X22D-OTCSO1
Solicitation Number: X22.D
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-11-08
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2023-02-08
Small Business Information
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760-1023
United States
DUNS: 184629491
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 James Szabo
 (508) 655-5565
Business Contact
 Judy Budny
Phone: (508) 655-5565
Research Institution
 Worcester Polytechnic Institute
 John Blandino
100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609-2280
United States

 (508) 831-5000
 Nonprofit College or University

Busek and WPI propose to develop a cathode electron source for spacecraft ion drives that are fueled by a variety of reactive and semi-reactive molecular propellants. The cathode may be fueled by ASCENT (AFM-315e), iodine (I2), air (N2 + O2), carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other substances. The proposed flexible fuel cathode is an extension of existing low current cathode technology that is presently being marketed for NASA, DoD, and commercial missions. The flexible fuel electron source would neutralize the ion beam created by a Hall effect Thruster or Gridded Ion Thruster.  Hall thrusters and gridded ion thrusters are forms of spacecraft electric propulsion (EP).  The exhaust velocity or specific impulse of these thrusters may be up to an order of magnitude higher than possible with a chemical rocket, greatly increasing spacecraft fuel efficiency. In Phase I Busek will establish requirements in cooperation with the government stake holder. WPI will take the lead in developing a global model of the electron source, which will be instrumental in scaling up the technology and adapting it to multiple propellants. The team will also develop a technology development plan and a Phase II work plan. Finally, Busek and WPI will document their results in a report.  In Phase II, Busek and WPI will develop and test a flexible fuel cathode at current levels up to 3 – 4 A, which is enough to enable a variety of single fuel small spacecraft EP systems.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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