PowerCube: Integrated Power, Propulsion, and Pointing for CubeSats

Award Information
Agency:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch
n/a
Amount:
$749,705.00
Award Year:
2012
Program:
SBIR
Phase:
Phase II
Contract:
NNX12CA09C
Agency Tracking Number:
105552
Solicitation Year:
2010
Solicitation Topic Code:
S4.02
Solicitation Number:
n/a
Small Business Information
Tethers Unlimited
WA, Bothell, WA, 98011-8808
Hubzone Owned:
N
Minority Owned:
N
Woman Owned:
N
Duns:
877425330
Principal Investigator:
Lenny Paritsky
Principal Investigator
(425) 486-0100
paritsky@tethers.com
Business Contact:
Robert Hoyt
Business Official
(425) 486-0100
hoyt@tethers.com
Research Institution:
Stub




Abstract
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.

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