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Micro-cathode Arc Thruster Phonesat Experiment

Principle Investigator: Elwood Agasid

Increased launch opportunities and the rapid pace of technology development have paved the way for small satellites to become an accepted platform for conducting research by the scientific space community as well as supporting space mission operations. A safe, easy to integrate micro-propulsion system is highly desired and would further enable the small satellite platform to support an even more diverse array of missions, including inter-planetary, earth observation, proximity operations, communications as well as technology validation.

The goal of this project is to integrate multiple micro-cathode arc thrusters, under development at George Washington University, with the Phonesat bus avionics to demonstrate commanding of the thrusters for Attitude control and orbit maneuvers. The micro-cathode arc thruster is a low mass, low volume, chemically inert propellant thruster that mitigates the hazards normally associated with chemical reactivity or pressurized gas based systems. The micro-cathode arc thruster has a predicted isp of 2000-3000 sec with a Delta V=300m/s for 3 Kg satellite and 30 gr of propellant. The Phonesat team will develop an Adroid App to control four thrusters and test the integrated system in a vacuum chamber.