A university microsatellite as a MEMS-based propulsion testbed
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Using reconfigurable and adaptable networks of micro/nanosatellites to support cost-effective space missions is a popular new direction in the space community. Micropropulsion systems, which control a satellite's dynamics and attitude, are instrumental to the success of such missions. Since the overall resources available for a micro/nanosatellite are more restricted than for a single large satellite, the micropropulsion system must be lightweight, low power and low cost. This study provides an initial estimate of the mission requirements that drive a micropropulsion design for a university-built microsateliite. It is demonstrated, through a pragmatic joint venture between a university and a government laboratory, that university satellites are an effective testbed for unconventional new technologies. An example of a university satellite that successfully served as a technology demonstration platform as well as an effective education instrument is presented. A follow-on mission, which will be the platform for flight testing a micropropulsion module, is then described. Two candidate micropropulsion systems, the free molecule micro-resistojet and a cold-gas micronozzle, have been studied for applicability to the prescribed mission. The preliminary study concludes that the free molecule micro-resistojet is the more appropriate micropropulsion system for this particular mission.
author list (cited authors)
Ketsdever, A., Wong, J., & Reed, H.