Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and Aerojet Rocketdyne exceeded the technical range objective for the main thruster that will fly aboard the Green Propellant Infusion Mission.
This mission will demonstrate in a space environment, a “green” propellant known as AF-M315E, to replace the highly toxic hydrazine and complex bi-propellant systems in-use today.
“This is an exciting program that will enhance both future spacecraft performance and U.S. competitiveness,” said Jim Oschmann, Ball Aerospace Civil Space and Technologies vice president and general manager. “The new propellant technology, once demonstrated on GPIM, will raise both the 22 Newton and 1 Newton class AF-M315E thruster readiness for flight, enabling safer and less costly space missions with significant enhanced in-space propulsion performance.”
The GPIM team demonstrated in a lab environment that the 22 Newton-class thruster running AF-M135E propellant had an enhanced operation range over traditional hydrazine used in spacecraft. The test continuously demonstrated that the thruster had enough force to go as high as 27 Newtons and scale down to 4 Newtons. The 22 Newton thruster will fire simultaneously along with four smaller 1N thrusters aboard the GPIM satellite to initiate orbit inclination changes and altitude changes.
“The expanded operational range exemplifies the performance benefits provided by the AF-M315E, which enable a broad range of applications from low-Earth orbit to deep space and facilitate infusion across the marketplace,” added Roger Myers, executive director of Electric Propulsion and Integrated Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Ball is leading an industry and government team to develop and fly the GPIM mission. The new AF-M315E propellant, which is a Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate fuel/oxidizer blend, was developed by U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has developed the thruster and catalyst technologies which enable practical applications for space missions. The GPIM project is a Technology Demonstration Mission managed by the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA.
As the prime contractor and principal investigator, Ball collaborates with a team of co-investigators from Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA Glenn Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, with additional mission support from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Kirkland Air Force Base.