Aerojet Rocketdyne has signed a contract with NASA to mature the development of a MPS-130 CubeSat propulsion system using a green propellant, known as AF-M315E. Once fully developed, the technology will increase CubeSat maneuverability, offer a modular propulsion system largely comprised of 3D printed components, as well as provide a safer, more efficient and higher-performance alternative relative to traditional hydrazine propellant.
"This is an exciting opportunity to advance technology past its ‘tipping point' into a revolutionary new product family," said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake. "This new class of CubeSat propulsion systems can be used in future NASA, military and commercial missions, and the benefits for the public and private sectors will be immense. Not only will it allow operators to increase the in-space capability of CubeSats and SmallSats, but it will allow them to operate more affordably and efficiently, and with a safer propellant."
The MPS-130 green propulsion system will allow CubeSats and SmallSats to increase their capabilities, such as extending mission life, increasing architecture resiliency, maneuvering to higher and lower orbits, and performing complex proximity operations and formation flying. The use of additive manufacturing also reduces the number of parts and amount of time required to fabricate and assemble the modular propulsion system, lowering the cost of small satellites for private and public operators. Under the contract, Aerojet Rocketdyne will deliver a fully-integrated MPS-130 green modular propulsion system for flight demonstration, as well as conduct development and validation testing.
Aerojet Rocketdyne was selected for this project under NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate's "Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies" solicitation, which seeks to mature technologies beyond their ‘tipping point.' According to NASA, the goal is to enable private industry to develop and qualify the technologies for market, stimulating the commercial space industry while delivering technologies and capabilities needed for future missions and commercial applications.