NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-2 X2.04-9863
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Electric Propulsion Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Reservoir Cathode for Electric Space Propulsion

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
e-beam, inc.
21070 Southwest Tile Flat Road
Beaverton, OR 97007 - 8739
(503) 628-0703

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Bernard Vancil
21070 Southwest Tile Flat Road
Beaverton, OR 97007 - 8739
(503) 628-0703

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 7

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
We propose a hollow reservoir cathode to improve performance in ion and Hall thrusters. We will adapt our existing reservoir cathode technology to this purpose. Reservoir cathodes are the only emission sources that are capable of supplying the necessary current density (>5.0 A/cm2) and life (>100,000 hours) for next generation high-power thrusters. More powerful thrusters are needed for interplanetary and lunar missions, as well as earth escape and near-earth space maneuvers. Reservoir cathodes are able to sustain high rates of barium diffusion to the cathode surface to overcome the high rate of barium removal in ion engines. The key Phase I innovation was flexible supports for the cathode matrix. This prevented the matrix fractures and reservoir leaks of previous reservoir cathodes for ion engines. Cathode operation and stability was verified. In Phase II,the design is refined and tested in actual ion engines.

The key challenge is the stresses exerted on the cathode tube and reservoir due to differential expansion and large temperature excursions. These originate from the outside heater and also from heating due to collisions with the cathode. These stresses can lead to fractures and weld failure. Our innovation solves this problem. This was proven on the Phase I device.

In Phase II we further test and optimize the Phase I device and perform life testing on it. We build cathode assemblies for insertion into ion engines which we test in an ion environment at e beam, JPL and Colorado State University. Their maximum specific impulse will be measured.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Mars and lunar cargo missions, and the upcoming Juno mission to Jupiter. Also, piloted interplanetary missions become feasible with sufficient cathode output and life. Earth transfer, stationkeeping and earth escape would occur at less cost, size and mass. Improved conventional reservoir cathodes, following from this effort, are needed in linear beam amplifiers to increase data rates in space communications. Output power, life, bandwidth, and frequency will all improve with better cathodes. These devices include traveling wave tubes and klystrons.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Ion thrusters are used in commercial satellites to stabilize their orbit and to change it. A higher performance, longer-life thruster might lower the number required, raise efficiencies and reliability, lower mass and size. Other areas include Department of Defense radars and communications. This is the biggest market for high performance cathodes. Reservoir cathodes such as are developed in this project would dramatically increase the life and performance of these systems. Non-governmental applications include high speed x-ray tomography systems, electron beam stimulated lasers, and geosynchronous satellite downlinks and ion thrusters.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (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.)
Attitude Determination & Control
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices

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