NASA SBIR Phase I: Micro-Pulsed Inductive Thruster with Solid Fuel Option (µPIT_SF)

μPIT under test in vacuum chamber at UW Advanced Propulsion Laboratory

The Micro Pulsed Inductive Thruster with Solid Fuel Option (μPIT_SF) is a high-precision impulse bit electromagnetic plasma micro-thruster. The μPIT prototype is a small (< 230 g) thruster that produces and accelerates plasma. In the solid fuel mode, μPIT_SF is able to substantially extend the performance of standard PPT systems by ionization and heating of the high density neutral gas produced after the arc. A small power-processing unit (PPU) is attached directly to the thruster which isolates the high voltage igniter section from the main spacecraft bus. Further development of the μPIT has implications that could include dramatic weight reductions of on-board station keeping and attitude control systems for miniature spacecraft and increased thruster efficiency. Anticipated development of the μPIT in Phase 1 of the proposed work would lead to a 2nd generation prototype at or near the NASA TRL 5. Anticipated results from a Phase 2 program would be to produce a prototype at NASA TRL 6 with a corresponding experimental determination of the thruster’s Isp levels and operational characteristics including a thrust measurement.

Second generation thruster body.