While CubeSats have begun to disrupt the entire satellite industry, a lack of adequate propulsion options continues to limit their adoption beyond experimental missions. Rideshare restrictions to propulsion systems often limit CubeSats to the non-optimal orbits into which the primary mission delivers them, and leaves them unable to maintain their orbits. This curbs CubeSat adoption into commercial, persistent Earth science, or interplanetary missions. ExoTerra’s Modular Xenon Micro Electric Propulsion System is a high-impulse propulsion system that enables CubeSats to alter or maintain their orbits and to perform affordable, targeted science missions throughout the inner solar system. The proposed integrated system provides 4-33 mN of thrust and 36-53 kNs of impulse at an Isp from 700-1500 s using a micro-Hall Effect Thruster, and can package in 9U of volume to meet the tight constraints of CubeSats. Variations of the system can provide over 100 kN-s of impulse. The propulsion system consists of the Xenon propellant and distribution system, a high efficiency PPU that is radiation tolerant to 100 krad, the Halo thruster and a thrust vector controller.
Potential NASA applications include interplanetary CubeSat missions with a need for non-toxic, high impulse and thrust propulsion systems. With this capability, NASA can send CubeSat missions to the Moon, asteroids, comets, Venus, Lagrange points, or Mars. The scalability of the propellant system design makes it applicable for a wide range of spacecraft sizes and mission architectures.
Exoterra’s Xenon Micro EP System provides orbit raising, inclination change and maintenance for commercial microsats. Commercial satellites can reach their working orbits using a smaller, simpler, and lower-cost SEP main propulsion system. The system can also be used in an SEP-based upper stage for the burgeoning small launch vehicle market, delivering microsats from LEO to GEO orbit or beyond.