NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-2 S2.01-8706
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Precision Spacecraft Formations for Telescope Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Colloid Thruster for Attitude Control Systems (ACS) and Tip-off Control Applications

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Busek Co. Inc.
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760 - 1023
(508) 655-5565

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Nathaniel Demmons
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760 - 1023
(508) 655-5565

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Busek proposes to develop and deliver a complete engineering model colloid thruster system, capable of thrust levels and lifetimes required for spacecraft operational tasks such as tip-off de-tumbling and attitude control. The self contained thruster system shall be capable of delivering ~75┬ÁN with sufficient total impulse to de-tumble spacecraft such as LISA.

The proposed Phase 2 work builds upon a highly successful Phase 1 effort where the key principals of the innovation, a propellant isolation membrane and a passive capillary feed system, were unequivocally demonstrated. The proposed system is completely passive with no moving parts and requires no valves to ensure its high reliability. In order to inhibit propellant contamination prior to operation in space, a unique isolation membrane will separate propellant from the emitter. Upon heating the isolation membrane dissolves, allowing propellant from a collocated reservoir to flow forward to the electrospray thruster without contamination. The thruster consists of an array of self adjusting emission sites that are activated by application of an electric field that initiates emission. The delivered thrust is modulated by varying the applied electric field.

The significant innovations of the proposed colloid thruster include: a compact, low power, modular thruster system containing no moving parts, which is capable of delivering sufficient thrust for spacecraft tip-off control and ACS applications.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Busek has recently delivered two colloid thruster clusters with eight complete thruster systems to JPL for use on the LISA Pathfinder mission, a precursor to LISA. Both missions require very precise, low noise micro-thrusters that are specific to the science portion of the mission. Such thrusters are not well suited for the more general thrusting task of launch vehicle separation tip-off cancellation, which requires larger thrusts. Using the same thrusters for the science portion of the mission that are designed for the tip-off requirements compromises their achievable performance and limits lifetime, suggesting that a secondary thruster system is preferred to perform short term, higher thruster maneuvers.

We believe that the simple colloid thruster proposed herein is capable of meeting the tip-off requirements for the LISA mission, thus allowing the primary colloid thrusters to be designed based solely on science mission requirements. The completely passive, compact, self contained tip-off colloid thruster system will have minimal impact on overall spacecraft system design. This thruster will also be useful for other missions where a compact, bolt-on propulsion system is necessary for short-duration, high-thrust maneuvers.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
There are ongoing trends toward miniaturization of spacecraft to very small sizes, however, developing an efficient miniaturized propulsion system is seen as a challenge to achieving widespread commercial, military and government application. While electronics and sensors have made great advances in miniaturization, studies have shown that micro-satellites are constrained by lack of suitable propulsion. This represents a significant market opportunity for colloid propulsion. The colloid thruster proposed here combines a small footprint, simple construction, and a strong technological heritage (e.g. ST7) that enables it to fulfill primary, ACS, and tip-off thrust operations for a wide range of micro/nano-satellites.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Electrostatic Thrusters
Feed System Components
Micro Thrusters
Propellant Storage

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