Green fuel inside Cubesat satellite under contract for Aerojet Rocketdyne


Aerojet Rocketdyne was granted with contract to develop first Cubesat satellite fueled with ecological and safe next generation rocket fuel.

Public-private partnership between NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne was announced in January 2016 and now it was confirmed with appropriate contract. MPS-130 propulsion system fueled with new AF-M315E fuel will be developed by AR for NASA. Propulsion will be based on 3D printing technology, which along with planned reduced number of parts will help in cost cutting; it surely will be warmly welcomed by most institutions and companies utilizing Cubesat standard in their constructions.

MPS-130 Cubesat High-Impulse Adaptable Modular Propulsion System (CHAMPS) is next generation propulsion for Cubesat satellites designed to meet demands of main propulsion and/or part of the attitude control systems. It is small and a light – external dimension are 10 cm x 10 cm x 11 cm with weight at 1.6 kg and is operating on low voltage (5 V). It will extend possibilities of Cubesat technology still combined with easy maintenance, assembly and low unit cost.

It was one of the key programs developed jointly by NASA and Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base in California with ultimate objective of bringing to the market ecological fuel available for Cubesat satellites. Until now, Cubesat platform which popularity is still increasing various academic institutions, research institutes and number of small companies, assumed to be used for spacecrafts without propulsion. Small thrusters were available, but main problem was fact, that they were utilizing toxic fuel. Filling tanks of the satellite and its integration with launch vehicle demanded extreme caution and special, expensive equipment. It was clear that it was one from the factors limiting operational life and capability of Cubesat satellites.

NASA spotted the problem and has taken the effort to resolve it and support American space industry. Two propellants were created during lasting of whole program: one developed by Air Force Research Laboratory (AF-M315E) and second created by Swedish Company Eurenco Bofors (LMP-103S propellant). Both propellants were tested in 2015 with small (1N of thrust) thrusters and with stronger engines (20 N for AF-M315E and 22 N LMP-103S) with positive results. First mission with satellite fueled with AF-M315E was set for 2017; Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) will show how new fuel works in space in BCP-100 satellite by Ball Aerospace. Satellite passed necessary tests on March, 2016 and will be launched on atop of Falcon-9 during STP-2 mission.