Spaceflight Testing of FEMTA Micropropulsion System for Interplanetary Smallsat

PI: Alina Alexeenko, Steven Collicott (Co-I), Purdue University

Under NASA's SmallSat Technology Partnership program, Purdue University developed a multi-functional SmallSat technology for low-power attitude and thermal control using the film-evaporation MEMS tunable array (FEMTA). This flight demonstration utilizes a suborbital vehicle to advance FEMTA technology by demonstrating zero-g, in-space operation of the FEMTA thruster with the vapor-pressure driven propellant management system.

Paper: Quad-Thruster FEMTA Micropropulsion System for CubeSat 1-Axis Control

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA02 In-Space Propulsion Technologies
Problem Statement

FEMTA utilizes microscale effects in fluid surface tension and advanced MEMS microfabrication to achieve a highly tunable micropropulsion at a thrust-to-power ratio of 200 µN/W using pure water as propellant. Technical objectives of flight testing include (i) develop a spaceflight rated micropropulsion module; (ii) prove the operability of the propulsion module in spaceflight operating conditions (iii) verify the integrity of the FEMTA thruster under spaceflight loading conditions.

Technology Maturation

The flight testing will be carried out on New Shepard Launch Vehicle in an external payload locker exposed to vacuum. During ascent and while the ambient pressure is less than 10 kPa, the zero-g tank will vent to equalize with the environment. Once in zero-g, a valve will open to allow propellant to flow from the propellant tanks to a collection chamber. The FEMTAs will be powered during this time to simulated operation.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    REDDI-F1-18 (Aug 2018)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 sRLV

Development Team

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