Self-Powered Electrospray Thruster Cluster for Deorbit-Detumble Applications

Award Information
Department of Defense
Air Force
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Busek Co. Inc.
11 Tech Circle, Natick, MA, 01760
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Thomas Roy
Chief Scientist
(508) 655-5565
Business Contact:
Judy Budny
(508) 655-5565
Research Institution:
Busek Co. Inc. proposes to develop a self-powered, self-contained propulsive de-orbit system that will (a) fit within a 12 in. x 12 in. x 1 in. volume, (b) weigh less than 5kg, (c) requires no propellant tanks or valves (or any other moving parts), (d) apply torque to the spacecraft in a detumbling operational mode (e) de-orbit a 200kg asset from 700km to 200km within a 10 year period qualified.  The propulsion system is based on long life, low power electro spray thruster  Busek is uniquely poised to deliver this technology, as it has built and delivered the first space-qualified electrospray thruster to JPL (ST7-DRS program), and is the leader in developing electrospray thrusters for specific mission profiles for both NASA and the DoD. Busek is not proposing a balloon, sail, parachute or tether because in the event that a spacecraft is tumbling out of control, each of these options is subject to twisting around the spacecraft, rendering the device useless.  A deorbiting thruster cluster that can apply torque to the spacecraft, and that can sense when to burn against the orbital path, is immune to this otherwise debilitating condition.   BENEFIT: Given the growing need to develop a reliable deorbiting technology that can respond to a variety of conditions, the proposed deorbiter/detumbler thruster is promising. Initially our efforts will be to secure Phase II funding to optimize and mature the design.  A flight program is a critical goal to validate the durability and stability of the electrospray thruster operation and responsiveness to a variety of conditions. The anticipated market for the electrospray thruster package developed by this effort is expected to extend from scientific and military missions into commercial satellites. Market forecasts by Futron Corporation predict steady growth in commercial satellites. Though colloid thrusters are in a relatively early stage of product development, the team assembled for this program is world-class and on the leading edge of this technology development which includes a number of novel design features including no moving parts and the ability to operate for years continuously, with no propellant tank other than an extension of the thruster itself. This elegant design results in a simple, durable system that could be used in a variety of mission profiles and deorbit a variety of space assets up to 700km and approximately 200kg or more. We expect further development efforts could extend the range of assets that can be deorbited by this device, and be installed on every space asset of that spacecraft class that is launched.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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