NASA SBIR 2014 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 14-1 Z20.01-9685
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Deep Space Cubesat Technology
PROPOSAL TITLE: CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster for LEO and Deep Space Missions

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Aether Industries, LLC
3600 Green Court, Suite 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48105 - 1570
(608) 225-3173

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Benjamin Wesley Longmier
3600 GREEN CT, STE 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48105 - 1570
(608) 225-3173

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Benjamin Longmier
3600 GREEN CT, STE 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48105 - 1570
(608) 225-3173

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

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Deep Space Cubesat Technology 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)
Aether Industries proposes the development of a novel, primary plasma propulsion system that is well suited for small spacecraft. This technology, called the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT), would provide CubeSats and other micro- and nano-satellites with the propulsive capability to make meaningful orbital plane and altitude changes — capability that does not currently exist with state-of-the-art micropropulsion technologies. As such, the CAT engine is an enabling technology that supports NASA, commercial, university, and military CubeSat needs from constellation deployment to lunar orbit insertion and beyond. In the CAT engine, a high-power RF plasma discharge is expanded adiabatically along a magnetic nozzle topology established by permanent magnets. A resultant ambipolar electric field accelerates the ions to high energies to generate thrust while retaining high propellant utilization. The CAT engine offers a means of providing efficient and high thrust-to-power primary propulsion for CubeSats and microsatellites. The CAT engine promises to change the CubeSat paradigm from passive sensor carriers to fully capable mission-completing spacecraft. Successful implementation by our team will result in the transition of technology developed into the commercial sector by a small business, the engagement of the next generation of the space sector workforce, and the infusion of an advanced in-space propulsion technology for future NASA, commercial, and government missions.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The CAT engine can achieve specific impulses (Isp) readily in excess of 1000 s. A CAT primary propulsion module can thus provide CubeSats with up to 10 km/s of delta-v, and hence major changes in orbital parameters in LEO can be achieved, as well as deploying CubeSats into Deep Space. With performance capability that is one to two orders of magnitude greater than the <100 m/s of delta-v that can be obtained from state-of-the-art micropropulsion systems , the CAT engine will enable mission planners to use CubeSats for many innovative mission concepts, including but not limited to the following scenarios of interest to NASA and other potential customers: (1) LEO to GEO and Lagrange point (Earth-Moon and Earth- Sun) orbital insertion and station-keeping, (2) Trans-lunar insertion and lunar orbit capture, (3) Earth's escape velocity generation for interplanetary CubeSat missions, (4) Final orbit acquisition at target destination following CubeSat deployment from carrier spacecraft, (5) Polar orbit insertion from mid-latitude initial orbits, (6) Mid-mission orbital adjustments for scientific sampling of a larger volume of the ionosphere and magnetosphere, (7) Long-duration cluster formation flying with the ability to reconfigure the constellation's orbital parameters, (8) Rendezvous and close-proximity operations .

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The development of the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) as a self-contained, CubeSat-compatible micropropulsion module takes advantage of the commercial opportunities in a rapidly growing nanosatellite market. Since 2000, academic, military, governmental, and commercial nanosatellite launch demand has grown by an average of 4% per year; this demand is projected to have a 20% growth per year over the next three years with over a hundred nanosatellites expected to be launched each year by 2020. These nanosatellites will be tasked with increasingly demanding missions (i.e., >100 m/s delta-v) with the corresponding need for high-performance micropropulsion systems to enable these missions. Unfortunately, current state-of-the-art cold-gas micropropulsion systems, with specific impulses <100 s, do not provide the requisite performance. In the development of the CAT engine, Aether is joined with several commercial partners in an effort to rapidly develop the necessary subsystems to a point where a large number of commercial units can be used for LEO constellation deployment, and prospecting and radio beacon deployment on many near-Earth asteroids. A phase 1 SBIR would allow Aether to more aggressively pursue the rapid testing necessary to bring the CAT engine to commercial fruition.

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.)
Circuits (including ICs; for specific applications, see e.g., Communications, Networking & Signal Transport; Control & Monitoring, Sensors)
Hardware-in-the-Loop Testing
Heat Exchange
Lifetime Testing
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices
Passive Systems
Pressure & Vacuum Systems
Simulation & Modeling
Spacecraft Main Engine

Form Generated on 04-23-14 17:37