PowerCube: Integrated Power, Propulsion, and Pointing for CubeSats

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX12CA09C
Agency Tracking Number: 105552
Amount: $749,705.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2012
Solicitation Year: 2010
Solicitation Topic Code: S4.02
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
Tethers Unlimited
WA, Bothell, WA, 98011-8808
DUNS: 877425330
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Lenny Paritsky
 Principal Investigator
 (425) 486-0100
Business Contact
 Robert Hoyt
Title: Business Official
Phone: (425) 486-0100
Email: hoyt@tethers.com
Research Institution
The PowerCube is a 1U CubeSat module that provides integrated propulsion, power, and precision pointing to enable the low-cost CubeSat platform to be used to conduct high-performance missions. The PowerCube concept integrates three innovative component technologies to provide these capabilities: First, a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) water-electrolysis fuel cell supplies gH2/gO2 to a simple pressure-fed thruster to provide 300 Ns of impulse per 100 mL of water. This approach enables the CubeSat to launch with 'inert' propellant to comply with P-POD limitations on stored energy and then process the water on-orbit into high-Isp fuel. Second, a deployable solar array that stows along the long sides of the CubeSat and deploys in a 'windmill' configuration provides up to 96 W peak. Third, a 3DOF 'carpal-wrist' gimbal, in conjunction with magnetic torque coils, enables sun-tracking of the solar panel, vectoring of the thruster, and precision pointing of payloads. The combination of ample power and water electrolysis will provide up to 6 m/s of delta-V per 90 minute orbit for a 3U CubeSat. Compared to other CubeSat propulsion technologies, the PowerCube thruster will enable more rapid orbital maneuvering and significantly lower contamination issues. Our Phase I effort developed a detailed baseline design for the PowerCube, and built and tested a proof-of-concept prototype of the water-electrolysis thruster. The Phase II effort will mature the electrolysis thruster component to the engineering model level, develop and simulate methods for attitude control and precise pointing of both panels and payloads using the gimbal and torque coils, and develop a detailed design for the entire PowerCube module to enable flight validation in follow-on Phase III efforts.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

Agency Micro-sites

SBA logo
Department of Agriculture logo
Department of Commerce logo
Department of Defense logo
Department of Education logo
Department of Energy logo
Department of Health and Human Services logo
Department of Homeland Security logo
Department of Transportation logo
Environmental Protection Agency logo
National Aeronautics and Space Administration logo
National Science Foundation logo
US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government