NASA’s Space Technology Program is calling for proposals to develop miniaturized electrospray propulsion technologies which could revolutionise the propulsion systems for small satellites.
Electrospray thrusters use electricity to energize material, then disperse a resulting liquid or aerosol through an emitter to generate thrust. Developing low-mass, lightweight microthruster technology has the potential to radically change propulsion capabilities of small satellites by allowing variable thrust propulsion, stabilization, and precision pinpointing. Such microthrusters might be of use for very fine pointing aboard future space observatories.
U.S. organizations, including NASA centers, government agencies, federally-funded research and development centers, educational institutions, industry and non-profit organizations, can submit ideas.
The solicitation covers two acquisition phases and involves a competitive selection process. During Phase 1, selected proposers will have 18 months to refine thruster designs, build prototype thruster systems, and conduct testing in flight-like environments. During Phase 2, the developed thruster will be integrated into a small spacecraft for an in-orbit demonstration. NASA expects to make up to three awards for Phase 1 proposals, with a total combined cost of about $5 million.