WASHINGTON — Satellite electric propulsion startup Apollo Fusion is expanding its product line via a settlement with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, giving it access to advanced Hall thruster generation.
The Silicon Valley-primarily based corporation said on May 7 that it signed a deal that offers it an exclusive global commercial license for JPL’s Magnetically Shielded Miniature, or MaSMi, Hall thruster technology, as well as an agreement to offer JPL with three thrusters that use that era.
Apollo Fusion plans to apply the MaSMi generation in an electric thruster referred to as the Apollo Xenon Engine (AXE), with a purpose to offer better overall performance than the prevailing electric-powered thrusters that the company has been developing.
Mike Cassidy, chief govt of Apollo Fusion, stated in an interview that a key benefit of MaSMi is its use of magnetic defensive to defend components from the plasma generated by the thruster. “It uses magnetic discipline traces to prevent the plasma interior a Hall thruster from eroding the internal of the thruster,” he said.
That erosion limits a traditional Hall thruster’s life to approximately 2 hundred,000 Newton-seconds of impulse. Magnetic protecting permits the thruster to closing a long way longer: Cassidy estimated its impulse might be up to ten instances better.
Apollo Fusion plans to take that technology and commercialize it, inclusive of “layout to manufacturability” adjustments that reduce the usage of individual substances and long-lead-time additives. That reflects the difference in the call for the company anticipates. “Many of the JPL missions is probably building one or two probes, while for a number of our clients, it can be loads of satellites,” he stated.
The employer will deliver the three thrusters to JPL for the summer season, mainly for floor trying out, even though Cassidy stated one of the thrusters could be used on a destiny spacecraft. He stated the organization would start business manufacturing of the AXE thrusters in early 2020.
AXE will offer higher thrust and overall performance over the business enterprise’s present Apollo Constellation Engine (ACE), with a thousand watts of energy and fifty-five millinewtons of thrust, as opposed to four hundred watts and 24 millinewtons of thrust for ACE. However, Cassidy stated the 2 thrusters could be complementary.
“There’s a sturdy hobby in both the 400-watt and kilowatt-level thrusters,” he said. AXE, he stated, will probably be of interest for those developing high-strength satellites, including all-electric powered GEO satellites that need the higher performance to decrease the transit time to their final geostationary orbit. A single AXE thruster, he said, is lighter than or three smaller ACE thrusters.
Apollo Fusion still sees interest for ACE from organizations growing smaller low Earth orbit satellites. That thruster has yet to fly in space, but Cassidy said one would fly inside the 2d half of the 12 months on a CubeSat undertaking designed to test it.
Cassidy introduced that the JPL deal has a further gain for the agency. “We’ve definitely gotten a top-notch response from quite a few of our commercial customers,” he said. “They’ve said, ‘Wow, JPL picked you guys to try this. That’s awesome.’”