Solid Teflon Propellant

Engineers at CUA have developed a patented Fiber-fed Pulsed Plasma Thruster (FPPT) which consumes PTFE propellant from a spooled form. The thruster uses massive parallelism in its energy storage unit (ESU) design, assembling COTS components into discrete modular capacitor assemblies while maintaining low per-cap specific current levels. Discharge initiation is accomplished via a regenerative carbon igniter array located in the thruster cathode. A 1.7U system configuration with a 32 J ESU operating at 48 Watts (1.5 Hz) produces a thrust of 0.10 mN with a specific impulse of 3,500 s. Thruster performance can be varied with fuel feed rate if desired. A 1.7U design provides up to 28,000 N-s total impulse. Accelerated subsystem life testing demonstrated > 1.6 billion capacitor charge / discharge cycles with nearly identical specific current waveforms. FPPT utilizes the completely non-toxic solid propellant Teflon with benign exhaust, has no corrosive or propellant plugging issues, and has on-demand thrust with no warmup time requirement. Further, the ability to control both input power and propellant feed rate allows tuning from higher-Isp operation to higher-thrust operation. CUA believes that the FPPT technology is a compelling option to meet many micropropulsion needs including extended orbital maneuvers, deorbiting, deep-space missions.

Advantages include:

  • Simplicity and safety with solid inert Teflon propellant

  • Low-cost propulsion option

  • Propellant is spooled inside package and easily expanded as needed

  • No pressure vessel required for propellant

  • Compact package size as small as 1U

  • Well-suited for 6U or larger CubeSats

Propellant Options: Teflon fiber (range safety not required)

Status: Available as 1.7U dual fault tolerant unit w/ < 9-month lead time

Variations: Alternate form factors available w/ additional cost and lead time

FPPT is being integrated for flight on CUA’s NASA-funded Dual Propulsion Experiment (DUPLEX) CubeSat, presently manifested for launch in Q3 2022.

Email for Pricing

Related Publications
R. L. Burton, C. A. Woodruff, D. M. King, and D. L. Carroll, Analysis of Fiber-Fed Pulsed Plasma Thruster Performance 22 Oct. 2020, Journal of Propulsion and Power, vol 20, numb 20, 88-90, 92, DOI 1.B38114, (2020)
C. A. Woodruff, D. M. King, R. L. Burton, and D. L. Carroll, Fiber-fed Pulsed Plasma Thruster (FPPT) for Small Satellites 15 Sep. 2019, IEPC, Sep 2019, Vienna, Austria, September 15-20, 2019, No. 899, pp. 1-12, DOI n/a, (2019)
C. Woodruff, D. King, R. Burton, J. Bowman, and D. L. Carroll, Development of a Fiber-Fed Pulsed Plasma Thruster for Small Satellites 04 Aug. 2019, Small Satellite Conference, Logan, UT, Aug 4, 2019, DOI n/a, (2019)