Qualification of a Micro Pulsed Plasma Thruster (PPTCUP) for Cubesat Application

 Programme:  TRP Workplan  Achieved TRL:  8
 Reference:  Small Studies  Closure:  2016
 Contractor(s):  Mars Space Ltd (UK), Clyde Space (UK)
 

In recent years there has been a large increase in the number and complexity of Cubesat missions. The use of propulsion is now becoming important to increase mission life and operational flexibility. The development of a high performance electric propulsion module will offer significant benefits compared to the simple cold gas systems flown to date.

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PPTCUP engine (courtesy of Mars Space)Access the image

Objectives
The objective of the activity was to develop and flight qualify a high performance pulsed plasma thruster for Cubesat applications.

Achievements
The activity has been completed successfully, leading to flight qualification of the PPTCUP and a product ready for the market. Performances have met or exceeded expectation and lifetime in excess of the targeted 1 million firing pulses has been demonstrated.

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PPTCUP module being weighed on a microbalance Access the image

Benefits
The qualification of the PPTCUP has brought to the Cubesat market a high performance propulsion system capable of providing a Total Impulse in excess of 40 Ns with a specific impulse in excess of 580 s. This type of propulsion system will allow a significant increase in the duration and range of Cubesat missions.

Further work
The successful qualification of the PPTCUP has produced a product, which is now offered on the market. The next step is to secure the first flight programme and gain in-flight demonstration of the product. Funding for an In-Orbit-Demonstration is being sought.

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