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Categories: 2016, Satellites

MicroCathode-Cold Gas Hybrid Propulsion System – BRICSat-T

The United States Naval Academy’s Autonomous On-Orbit Diagnostic System (AMODS) offers a low-cost solution to maintain, and diagnose or repair satellites that are currently on-orbit. The program utilizes a fleet of 3U Cube satellites: one BRICSat-T, or “tug” and up to six repair, or RSat units. BRICSat-T provides the sole propulsive support to move RSat units from their orbits to host satellites, while each RSat is capable of grappling to and repositioning itself on a client satellite to provide diagnostic and other services. BRICSat-T’s propulsion system must be powerful enough to allow the spacecraft to perform orbital maneuvers yet precise and accurate enough to dock RSat with a client satellite. This presents a particular challenge with a 3U spacecraft. In order to achieve this mission, researchers at USNA propose a hybrid propulsion system which combines the Micro-Cathode Arc (μCat) Thruster developed by George Washington University for proximity maneuvers, with a cold gas thruster for orbital maneuvers. μCat thrusters will be strategically positioned around BRICSat-T to provide six degrees of freedom during rendezvous and docking operations. These thrusters deliver a force large enough to move BRICSat and RSat into docking range in a timely manner, yet are small enough to achieve micrometer resolution. Combined with an advanced machine vision unit on board BRICSat-T, these thrusters provide a highly precise and accurate system.  BRICSat-T will also house a 1U cold gas thruster capable of providing an instantaneous 1.9 m/s change in velocity, allowing the BRICSat-T to accomplish orbital phasing maneuvers. This presentation will provide an in-depth analysis of the hybrid propulsion system. It will characterize the abilities of the system and demonstrate how the propulsive combination provides the optimal solution for the AMODS program. It will conclude with a discussion of the numerous possibilities the hybrid propulsion concept offers for CubeSat maneuvering.

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Author: Jacob Pittman
Topic: Satellites

  • MicroCathode-Cold Gas Hybrid Propulsion System - BRICSat-T

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