August 19, 2015 – NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) to develop a high-performance, low-toxicity fuel and propulsion system for spacecraft has passed a major milestone. A green propellant propulsion subsystem, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, has been delivered to the mission’s prime contractor, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. GPIM will provide safer operations and higher performance on future missions.
The propulsion subsystem will be one of three experimental payloads on the mission’s spacecraft — a Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) 100 small satellite. Ball has already begun integrating the propulsion subsystem onto the space vehicle.
“This is a critical milestone for the GPIM program that will be a game-changer for how we travel in and through space,” said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager of Civil Space and Technology at Ball Aerospace. “This new technology offers longer mission durations, additional maneuverability, increased payload space and simplified launch processing for future spacecraft.”
The green propellant propulsion subsystem, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, consists of a propellant tank and five 1-newton thrusters to carry the new non-toxic fuel, called AF-M315E.
The new propellant is 40-percent denser than hydrazine, meaning more of it can be stored in containers of the same volume. This provides a 50-percent increase in maneuvering capability for a given volume. It also has a lower freezing point than hydrazine, requiring less spacecraft power to maintain its temperature. These characteristics make it ideal for a wide range of emerging small, deep space satellite missions.
“GPIM is the culmination of excellent teamwork between NASA, the Air Force, Ball Aerospace and Aerojet Rocketdyne,” said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of Advanced Space and Launch Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “This propulsion system delivery marks the success of more than 10 years of research and development.”
The Green Propellant Infusion Mission is scheduled for a launch to low-Earth orbit in 2016 in partnership with the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Additional team members includes the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, and NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
During the test flight, researchers will conduct orbital maneuvers to demonstrate the performance of the propellant during attitude control shifts, changes in orbital inclination and orbit lowering.
The mission is part of a portfolio of technology demonstration flight and ground projects led by NASA teams and industry partners across the country, managed by the Technology Demonstration Missions program office at Marshall.
Technology demonstration missions are sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in future missions. NASA’s technology investments provide cutting-edge solutions for our nation’s future.