Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced Oct. 16 that it will demonstrate a reduced toxicity monopropellant blend that offers improved performance and simplified handling processes over hydrazine, the traditional propellant choice for spacecraft.
Under contract to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., Aerojet will perform the technology demonstration mission, known as the Green Propellant Infusion Mission, or GPIM, for NASA’s Space Technology Program.
“NASA is seeking new, reduced toxicity high performance green propellants as an alternative to hydrazine in order to make propellant handling safer for ground crews, as well as to reduce mission cost and enable new application opportunities,” said Aerojet Vice President of Advanced Programs, Marshall Cousineau. “Aerojet recently achieved a significant technical breakthrough in our thruster technology that supports the GPIM project and offers a path to replace hydrazine for next-generation spacecraft.”
The propellant, known as AF-M315E, is a Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate fuel/oxidizer blend developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory that offers nearly 50 percent higher performance for a given propellant tank volume, compared to a standard hydrazine system, and can be mission-enabling for space-constrained satellites.
Ball Aerospace will have overall responsibility for the GPIM that builds on two decades of technology development funded by AFRL, NASA and Aerojet. GPIM culminates with a demonstration mission and Aerojet will be responsible for leveraging previous development and test activities into thoroughly tested flight designs, integration of the rocket engine assemblies into a propulsion system, and supporting Ball throughout the fueling, launch and flight phases.