Testing of a 1-N AF-M315E Thruster
The Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is currently pursuing various space propulsion and small satellite projects. One of these projects is called Orbital Factory X (OFX), which mission is to design a 2U Cube-Satellite (Cube Sat) with 4 green mono-propellant thrusters along with multiple micro-cathode arc thrusters. A CubeSat is a small-scale version of a satellite that is usually placed in orbit for near earth missions. However, they have a relative short life and limited maneuverability due to their limited source of power and restricted payload. Now, technologies can offer advanced propulsion systems with attractive features such as; orbit rising, orbit maintenance, attitude control, re-positioning, even cost reduction and compactness. Currently, small spacecraft propulsion systems rely on the commonly used hydrazine( N_2 H_4) mono-propellant. Hydrazine systems use a room temperature catalyst that offers cold starts which can be very beneficial for low-power buses and it has an achievable specific impulse between 200-210s. Nonetheless, hydrazine is highly toxic due to its dangerous chemical composition and high vapor pressures requiring the use of special personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce safety concerns towards personnel when handling and loading the propellant.AF-M315E is a green mono-propellant that delivers 5% higher specific impulse combined with a 46% higher density improving the mass fraction over that of that of hydrazine. This green mono-propellant is relatively stable compared to hydrazine since is unlikely to exothermically decompose at room temperature even in presence of a catalyst. Also, only single-fault-tolerance is required when handling the propellant reducing safety hazards. In addition, the fracture-critical hardware design (propellant tanks) can be much simpler and cost-effective. This can be very beneficial to small orbiters by storing more fuel within the same volume as hydrazine.^
Aguilar, Daniela Ivette, "Testing of a 1-N AF-M315E Thruster" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13423930.