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NASA to Vet Phase Four Propulsion System for Small Satellites

By | May 24, 2018
Phase Four RF plasma thruster

A rendering of a Phase Four RF plasma thruster. Photo Credit: Phase Four

Phase Four, a provider of electric Radio Frequency (RF) thrusters for in-space propulsion, has announced that NASA has purchased one of its second-generation RF thrusters to vet its capabilities for small satellite propulsion. The Phase Four thruster is part of an Integrated Propulsion Assembly (IPA) that contains: propellant storage and management, engine control electronics, power processing, and a thruster in one integrated solution. NASA will utilize the P4 propulsion solution to gain operational flight experience that demonstrates Phase Four’s capability to meet NASA’s upcoming small satellite mission goals. The IPA will be delivered to NASA in 2019.

Based in El Segundo, California, Phase Four builds an electrode-less RF thruster, which can be scaled for CubeSat and SmallSat constellations to larger, bus-sized satellites. Released on April 16, performance test results by The Aerospace Corporation reveal that Phase Four’s RF thrusters measured on-par with Hall Effect Thrusters (HET).