Safe High Thrust

CU Aerospace has tested a proof-of-principle Monopropellant Propulsion Unit for CubeSats (MPUC). Complete catalyzed combustion was demonstrated with H2O2-based propellant mixtures denoted as CMP-X. This monopropellant has zero toxicity and no special measures are required for its long-term storage. CMP-X was subjected to and passed UN Series 1, 3, and 6 and demonstrated no detonation or mass explosion and is recommended for exclusion from the explosives Class list.  Long term stability testing is underway and to date exhibits good stability. CMP-X is designed not for highest performance Isp, but as a monopropellant option for customers who can accept a modest 20% performance penalty (relative to AF-315E and LMP-103S) for the advantages of air transportability, considerably fewer range safety concerns, lower flame temperature resulting in considerably less thermal soakback into the spacecraft, and longer continuous thrust burns.  

Reactivity of CMP-X with Catalyst (CC-9)

CMP-X retains the ability to scale in thrust magnitude and requires minimal catalyst bed warmup time. Thrust stand tests achieved a thrust level of >150 mN with Isp >180 s with an average input power of ~3 W, for hot fire runs typically spanning >10 minutes. MPUC designs comprise a complete propulsion system technology for CubeSats and other small satellites. A conceptual system also provides cold-gas attitude control system (ACS) and projects ~2,500 N-s of total impulse for a 2U package size.

Advantages Include:

  • Primary thrust > 500 mN demonstrated
  • Thrust can be throttled
  • System is scalable for very high thrust
  • Non-detonable, non-explosive UN 1.4S transportation classification
  • ACS can be added
  • Well-suited for 6U or larger CubeSats 

Propellant Options: Peroxide/Ethanol Mixture (CMP-8 and CMP-X)

Status: Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) required for final design and qualification. First unit w/ dual fault tolerance unit ~15-month lead time (shorter lead times thereafter)

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Related Publications
D. King, C. Woodruff, J Camp, and D. L. Carroll, Development and Testing of a Low Flame Temperature, Peroxide-Alcohol-Based Monopropellant Thruster 07 Aug. 2021, 35th Annual Small Satellite Conference, Logan, Utah, Aug 7-12, 2021, SSC18-III-09, DOI n/a, (2021)
D. M. King, C. A. Woodruff, R. L. Burton, and D. L. Carroll, Development of H2O2-Based Monopropellant Propulsion Unit for CubeSats (MPUC) 05 Dec. 2016, 63rd JANNAF Propulsion - Dec 2016, Pheonix, AZ, 5-9 December 2016, Vol. 2016-4935, DOI n/a, (2016)