Within a week of launching to space on a Falcon Heavy rocket, NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) successfully fired its five thrusters. The thrusters performed a brief orbit lowering firing as part of the spacecraft’s “checkout” phase, where operators verify systems are working as expected after launch.
“We had a textbook checkout,” said Christopher McLean, GPIM principal investigator at Ball Aerospace. “Test operations were flawless and the propulsion subsystem is interacting with the small spacecraft as designed.”
In the coming months, the technology mission will demonstrate the performance of a low-toxic alternative to hydrazine – a propellent commonly used by spacecraft today. GPIM will test the “green” fuel and propulsion system by performing three lowering burns that place the spacecraft in a different orbit. Once proven in orbit, GPIM technology could lower the cost of fueling spacecraft before launch and provide efficient propulsion solutions for small and large satellites.
GPIM is funded by the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, operates the mission. Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, designed the thrusters and the propulsion system was co-designed by Ball Aerospace and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory developed the propellant known as AF-M315E.