Apollo Fusion obtains Hall thruster technology from JPL

WASHINGTON — Satellite tv for pc electrical propulsion startup Apollo Fusion is increasing its product line via an settlement with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, giving it entry to superior Corridor thruster expertise.

The Silicon Valley-based firm mentioned Could 7 that it signed a deal that offers it an unique worldwide business license for JPL’s Magnetically Shielded Miniature, or MaSMi, Corridor thruster expertise, in addition to a contract to supply JPL with three thrusters that use that expertise.

Apollo Fusion plans to make use of the MaSMi expertise in an electrical thruster known as the Apollo Xenon Engine (AXE), which is able to present greater efficiency than the present electrical thrusters that the corporate has been creating.

Mike Cassidy, chief govt of Apollo Fusion, mentioned in an interview {that a} key advantage of MaSMi is its use of magnetic shielding to guard parts from the plasma generated by the thruster. “It makes use of magnetic area strains to cease the plasma inside a Corridor thruster from eroding the within of the thruster,” he mentioned.

That erosion limits the lifetime of a traditional Corridor thruster to about 200,000 newton-seconds of impulse. Magnetic shielding permits the thruster to final far longer: Cassidy estimated its impulse might be as much as 10 instances greater.

Apollo Fusion plans to take that expertise and commercialize it, together with “design to manufacturability” modifications that reduces the usage of unique supplies and long-lead-time parts. That displays the distinction in demand the corporate anticipates. “Most of the JPL missions is perhaps constructing one or two probes, whereas for a few of our prospects it could be a whole bunch of satellites,” he mentioned.

The corporate will ship the three thrusters to JPL to summer time, primarily for floor testing, though Cassidy mentioned one of many thrusters might be used on a future spacecraft. He mentioned the corporate will begin business manufacturing of the AXE thrusters in early 2020.

AXE will supply greater thrust and efficiency over the corporate’s current Apollo Constellation Engine (ACE), with 1000 watts of energy and 55 millinewtons of thrust, versus 400 watts and 24 millinewtons of thrust for ACE. Nevertheless, Cassidy mentioned the 2 thrusters might be complementary.

“There’s robust curiosity in each the 400-watt and kilowatt-level thrusters,” he mentioned. AXE, he mentioned, will doubtless be of curiosity for these creating high-power satellites, together with all-electric GEO satellites that need the upper efficiency to lower the transit time to their closing geostationary orbit. A single AXE thruster, he mentioned, is lighter than two or three smaller ACE thrusters.

Apollo Fusion nonetheless sees curiosity for ACE from firms creating smaller low Earth orbit satellites. That thruster has but to fly in area, however Cassidy mentioned one will fly within the second half of the 12 months on a cubesat mission designed particularly to check it.

Cassidy added that the JPL deal has an extra profit for the corporate. “We’ve actually gotten an incredible response from a variety of our business prospects,” he mentioned. “They’ve mentioned, ‘Wow, JPL picked you guys to do that. That’s spectacular.’”

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