NASA SBIR 2012 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 12-2 S3.03-8640
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Propulsion Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: High Throughput Hall Thruster for Small Spacecraft

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

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

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Judy Budny
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760 - 1023
(508) 655-5565

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Propulsion Systems is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Busek is developing a high throughput nominal 100-W Hall Effect Thruster. This device is well sized for spacecraft ranging in size from several tens of kilograms to several hundred kilograms. It could be fueled by either xenon or iodine. The latter yields performance like xenon, but stores at low pressure and high density, make it especially attractive for volume limited spacecraft. The available specific impulse will be 1400-1600-s. The target thruster efficiency is 45%. At 100-W and 1500-s, the thrust will be 6.1 mN. The lifetime of the thruster may exceed 10,000 hours, yielding a throughput of greater than 14.9 kg.

In Phase I, the thruster was designed. Design considerations included efficiency, specific impulse, temperature, lifetime, mass, volume, and cost. Careful attention to the magnetic field resulted in a "magnetically shielded" shape, which should minimize or entirely eliminate ion wall losses. Testing with a nominal 200-W thruster showed the feasibility and desirability of both permanent magnets and a diamond discharge channel. Permanent magnets save mass, volume, and power. Diamond reduces ion sputtering by 50% with respect to conventional materials.

In Phase II, the 100-W thruster and a compact cathode to accompany it will be manufactured, tested, and improved. Performance, lifetime, and plume properties will be evaluated. Testing will include both xenon and iodine. Year 2 development will focus on maximizing throughput. Integrated testing will include a compact, low cost, power processing unit. The technology will reach TRL 5.

The program is responsive to NASA topic S3.03, Propulsion Systems. Both the "Electric Propulsion" and "Micro-Propulsion" sub-topics are relevant. The proposal also addresses several of NASA's Grand Challenges, including Efficient In-Space Transportation, Space Debris Hazard Mitigation, and Economical Space Access.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed 100-W thruster fills a void between existing micro-propulsion options and existing low power Hall thruster systems. The system provides the benefits of electric propulsion (specific impulse, delta-V) to small, low cost spacecraft, a market which is presently underserved. The proposed 100-W thruster is especially well sized for spacecraft weighing 20 to 200-kg. Integration with nano-spacecraft (<20 kg) is also feasible. The first NASA application could be a small technology satellite demonstration satellite fueled by xenon or iodine propellant. Other near term applications could include drag-makeup and formation flying.

The size, low alpha (kg/kW), and simplicity of Hall thrusters make them ideal for many other applications. These include orbit raising and lowering, de-orbiting, station-keeping, inclination changes, and interplanetary transfers. Destinations could include asteroids, comets, dwarf planets, outer planets, etc. In such missions, the thruster could function either by itself or in conjunction with a larger Hall thruster. Still other applications could include a cargo delivery vehicle originating in LEO or at the ISS, or a small electric upper stage.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Hall thrusters are attractive for commercial and military spacecraft due to their high performance, relatively small size, low mass, and relatively low cost. Continuous thrust functions for small, power-limited spacecraft in LEO would include orbit insertion and maintenance, in-space maneuvering, orbit-raising, and de-orbiting. The thruster is appropriate for spacecraft as small as 6 - 12 U in size. Applications for geosynchronous spacecraft would include station-keeping and repositioning. In pulsed mode, the thruster could provide high precision impulse bits for station-keeping, attitude control, precision positioning, and constellation maintenance.

An iodine fueled system could provide an "off the shelf" option for operationally responsive spacecraft. The military has a need for satellites that are both operationally responsive to launch command and operationally responsive to the war fighter on-orbit. The ORS office is proposing a paradigm shift from the traditional architecture to a more flexible "plug and play" architecture. For this class of spacecraft, a low power Hall thruster fueled by iodine is very attractive because it can be stored as a solid at low temperature and sub-atmospheric pressure, allowing pre-fueled long term storage of the propulsion system until a responsive space need arises.

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.)
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
Models & Simulations (see also Testing & Evaluation)
Passive Systems
Simulation & Modeling
Spacecraft Main Engine

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