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.
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.
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