From LANL: “Rocket motor concept could boost CubeSat missions”

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Los Alamos National Laboratory

October 13, 2016 [Where has tis been hiding?]
Kevin Roark
Communications Office
(505) 665-9202

Artists concept of a CubeSat on-board propulsion system. (Photo credit: Inside Out Visuals)

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a rocket motor concept that could pave the way for CubeSats zooming across space. These small, low-cost satellites are an easy way for scientists to access space, but are lacking in one key area, on-board propulsion.

“The National Academy of Sciences recently convened a meeting to look at science missions in CubeSats,” said Bryce Tappan, an explosives chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead researcher on the CubeSat Propulsion Concept team, “and identified propulsion as one of the primary categories of technology that needs to be developed.”

The Los Alamos team recently tested a six-motor CubeSat-compatible propulsion array with tremendous success.

“I think we’re very close to being able to put this propulsion system onto a satellite for a simple demonstration propulsion capability in space,” said Tappan.

The primary roadblock to CubeSat propulsion has always been safety. Typical spacecraft propulsion systems utilize fuels that are intrinsically hazardous, like hydrazine, or compressed gasses. Since CubeSats are usually deployed via “rideshare” or “piggyback” on a larger satellite deployment or other large space mission, even a small margin of risk is unacceptable.

“Obviously, someone who’s paying half a billion dollars to do a satellite launch is not going to accept the risk,” said Tappan. “So, anything that is taken on that rideshare would have to be inherently safe, no hazardous liquids.”

The rocket propulsion concept that Tappan is developing is a solid-based chemical fuel technology, but differs from classical solid propellants because it is completely non-detonable, making it much less hazardous.

See the full article here .

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