Nitrous Oxide Propulsion System

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNJ04JA21C
Agency Tracking Number: 024172
Amount: $600,000.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2004
Solicitation Year: 2002
Solicitation Topic Code: H4.01
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
Pioneer Astronautics
11111 W. 8th Avenue, Unit A, Lakewood, CO, 80215-5516
DUNS: 120561456
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Robert Zubrin
 Principal Investigator
 (303) 980-0890
Business Contact
 Robert Zubrin
Title: Business Official
Phone: (303) 980-0890
Research Institution
The Nitrous Oxide Propulsion System (NOPS) is a new Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) thruster concept using nitrous oxide as a monopropellant. Liquid monopropellants are often used in propulsion systems where simplicity of design, restartable/control on demand, and repeatability is desired. Unfortunately, many monopropellants are toxic and dangerous, ruling them out for EMU thruster application. Thus, EMU thrusters have relied upon cold gaseous nitrogen, which offers very low specific impulse and propellant mass fraction. A NOPS, however, uses nitrous oxide, a readily available safe and storable propellant which is not toxic, has performance comparable to hydrazine, and does not decompose spontaneously like hydrogen peroxide. Furthermore, Pioneer Astronautics has demonstrated a system that decomposes N2O into a breathable mix of oxygen and nitrogen. Thus, for example, an EMU propelled by a NOPS system would provide an astronaut with a large emergency backup supply of oxygen. Such a dual use system could also have great utility as the propulsion system for manned spacecraft, such as the International Space Station or the Space Shuttle, where safety is paramount and breathing gas reserves are desired. Replacing current liquid monopropellant thrusters with NOPS units would greatly reduce ground processing time and costs, while providing comparable performance.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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