Reducing the inert mass of propulsion systems in sample return spacecraft will reduce their launch costs and increase opportunity for these missions. Compared to a pressure-fed system, a propellant pump-fed system can significantly reduce overall propulsion system mass, especially for a system with high propellant throughput. To address this need, we propose to develop a compact, lightweight electrically driven propellant pump that can achieve a high pressure rise to increase the thruster chamber pressure, and thus the propellant specific impulse. The pump operates at very high speeds to achieve a high pressure rise, high power density, and high efficiency. The miniature pump impeller is produced by Creare’ proprietary fabrication processes to achieve high hydrodynamic efficiency. The fabrication process is built on Creare’s space-qualified, high-speed miniature turbomachine technology. In Phase I, we will demonstrate the feasibility of our approach through detailed design analyses for the propellant pump and assessment of its performance benefits over a pressure-fed system, as well as demonstration of critical component technology. In Phase II, we will build and test a propellant pump and delivery it to NASA for further evaluation.
The technology developed in this project will reduce the inert mass of spacecraft propulsion systems. The pump will provide high-pressure propellant to increase the propellant specific impulse. The technology also has applications in spacecraft for sample return missions, spacecraft refueling systems, and circulation pumps for thermal management systems.
The propellant pump technology also has applications in military and commercial spacecraft that require very high maneuverability, commercial small satellites/CubeSats, launch vehicles, and sounding rockets.