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.

PPTCUP engine (courtesy of Mars Space)Access the image

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

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.

PPTCUP module being weighed on a microbalance Access the image

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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