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Project name:

Belarusian university is seeking partners for research and technical cooperation in the development and approbation of electrostatic colloidal microthruster for CubeSat satellites

Status: Idea
Creation date: 23-02-2022

Project objectives:

Summary Belarusian university has developed an electrostatic colloidal microthruster for CubeSat satellites using micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) technology. They are interested in technical and research cooperation with industrial and academic partners in respect to joint development and testing of systems for propulsion and positioning of microsatellites. Potential partners could be scientific organizations, universities, and private companies.

Description

Small CubeSat satellites are becoming an increasingly popular type of spacecraft. They can be used for the exploration of outer space, the atmosphere and the Earth's surface, and communication. Other applications include the development and demonstration of technologies related to aerospace technology, and the study of other celestial objects. As for Nanosatellite and CubeSat Database, the number of nano- and picosatellites launched into near-Earth orbit is increasing exponentially every year. In the third quarter of 2020 it amounted to more than 1200 units. However, only 6.1% of nanosatellites are equipped with thrusters, which is due to the lack of reliable universal devices with an optimal ratio of mass, thrust and generated pulse. Currently, cold-gas, chemical, ion, hall, plasma, thermoresistive and electrostatic reactive microthrusters have been developed.

The University has developed an electrostatic colloidal microthruster for nanosatellites, in which an ionic liquid is used as a fuel, providing a thrust of up to 0.2 mN at a total pulse value of 1000 N*s. The power consumption is 15 W. The dimensions of the microthruster are 100x100x90 mm, which does not exceed the dimension of one 1U CubeSat unit.

The advantage of this development is the use of MEMS technologies to create the main components of an electrostatic colloidal microthruster. This allows one to lower the standards for machining accuracy, hardness and viscosity of the structural materials used. As a result, it allows to achieve parameters similar to competitive developments with reduced cost of manufacturing and materials.

The dimensions of the developed microthruster sample make it possible to install it on CubeSat microsatellites with dimensions from 3U to 9U.
Low power consumption for the use of an effective electrostatic principle of reactive thrust formation enables to reduce the load on the onboard power supply system of the microsatellite.

In contrast to solid-fuel or liquid-propellant combustion thrusters, the electrostatic operating principle of the microthruster allows more accurate control of the pulse generated by it and repeated restart thereof during the life cycle of a microsatellite. The generated thrust and specific pulse allow maintaining the orbit of a 3U microsatellite with a height of 300 km for 3..4 years.
In its characteristics, the microthruster sample is comparable to similar developments of Accion Systems (USA), Busek (USA) and Inpulsion (Austria). But it has technological advantages associated with the use of MEMS technologies for manufacturing.

The offer is aimed at establishing technical cooperation with industrial partners to conduct joint work on the pilot operation of an electrostatic colloidal microthruster for further use in small spacecrafts.

Collaboration with an industrial partner within technical or research cooperation agreements is possible for the implementation of joint scientific and technical developments with regard to electrostatic systems for spacecraft micropropulsion. These developments should be targeted at improving the developed technology and/or creating devices with the required parameters.

It is assumed to conduct joint developments of new technologies with scientific partners for the use in the microthrusters of small spacecraft propulsion systems.

Universities, scientific organizations, and private companies are considered as partners.

Advantages & innovations The main advantage of the proposed design of the electrostatic colloidal microthruster is the use of an emitter and an extractor made of quartz and monocrystalline silicon using MEMS technologies (photolithography, (plasma) chemical etching). These are the main components of the microthruster responsible for the formation of a fuel torch to generate jet thrust. The materials used and MEMS technologies allow one to decrease the cost of the microthruster in comparison with the analogues that use heat resistant hard alloys, such as inconel, for the manufacture of similar components – the emitter and extractor. The required processing accuracy of 1..10 microns is achieved through the use of expensive high-precision milling and cutting machines.

Stage of development Prototype available for demonstration

Contact / source: Enterprise Europe Network (europa.eu)

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