Satellite electric propulsion startup Apollo Fusion is increasing its product line through an agreement with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, giving it access to superior Hall thruster technology. The Silicon Valley-primarily based business enterprise said on May 7 that it signed a deal that gives it a distinct international business license for JPL’s Magnetically Shielded Miniature, or MaSMi, Hall thruster era, in addition to an agreement to provide JPL with three thrusters that use that era.
Apollo Fusion plans to apply the MaSMi era in an electric thruster called the Apollo Xenon Engine (AXE), so one can offer higher performance than the existing electric-powered thrusters that the agency has been growing. In an interview, Mike Cassidy, chief executive of Apollo Fusion, said that a key gain of MaSMi is its use of magnetic shielding to shield additives from the plasma generated by the thruster. “It uses magnetic field strains to stop the plasma internal a Hall thruster from eroding the interior of the thruster,” he stated.
That erosion limits the life of a traditional Hall thruster to about 200,000 Newton seconds of impulse. Magnetic defensive allows the thruster to remain a long way longer: Cassidy envisioned its impulse might be up to 10 instances higher. Apollo Fusion plans to take that era and commercialize it, together with “design to manufacturability” changes that reduce the use of exclusive substances and lengthy-lead-time components. That displays the difference in the call for the agency anticipates. “Many of the JPL missions is probably constructing one or probes, while for some of our customers, it is able to be loads of satellites,” he stated.
The organization will supply the 3 thrusters to JPL in the summertime, typically for floor checking out, even though Cassidy said one of the thrusters could be used on a destiny spacecraft. He said the company would begin industrial production of the AXE thrusters in early 2020. AXE will provide higher thrust and performance over the organization’s current Apollo Constellation Engine (ACE), with 1000 watts of strength and 55 millinewtons of thrust, versus four hundred watts and 24 millinewtons of thrust for ACE. However, Cassidy stated the 2 thrusters might be complementary.
“There’s robust interest in each the 400-watt and kilowatt-level thrusters,” he stated. AXE, he stated, will probably be of interest for those developing high-strength satellites, which includes all-electric powered GEO satellites that want the higher overall performance to lower the transit time to their final geostationary orbit. An unmarried AXE thruster, he stated, is lighter than two or 3 smaller ACE thrusters.
Apollo Fusion nonetheless sees interest for ACE from organizations growing smaller low Earth orbit satellites. That thruster has yet to fly in the area, but Cassidy said one would fly in the second half of-of the 12 months on a CubeSat assignment designed mainly to test it. Cassidy delivered that the JPL deal has an additional gain for the agency. “We’ve truly gotten an extraordinary response from lots of our commercial clients,” he stated. “They’ve stated, ‘Wow, JPL picked you, men, to do that. That’s stunning.'”