Propulsion for CubeSats

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Abstract

At present, very few CubeSats have flown in space featuring propulsion systems. Of those that have, the literature is scattered, published in a variety of formats (conference proceedings, contractor websites, technical notes, and journal articles), and often not available for public release. This paper seeks to collect the relevant publically releasable information in one location. To date, only two missions have featured propulsion systems as part of the technology demonstration. The IMPACT mission from the Aerospace Corporation launched several electrospray thrusters from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and BricSAT-P from the United States Naval Academy had four micro-Cathode Arc Thrusters from George Washington University. Other than these two missions, propulsion on CubeSats has been used only for attitude control and reaction wheel desaturation via cold gas propulsion systems. As the desired capability of CubeSats increases, and more complex missions are planned, propulsion is required to accomplish the science and engineering objectives. This survey includes propulsion systems that have been designed specifically for the CubeSat platform and systems that fit within CubeSat constraints but were developed for other platforms. Throughout the survey, discussion of flight heritage and results of the mission are included where publicly released information and data have been made available. Major categories of propulsion systems that are in this survey are solar sails, cold gas propulsion, electric propulsion, and chemical propulsion systems. Only systems that have been tested in a laboratory or with some flight history are included.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages231-243
Number of pages13
JournalActa Astronautica
Volume134
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2017

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Propulsion
Gases
Solar sails
Electric propulsion
Attitude control
Contractors
Websites
Wheels
Cathodes
Demonstrations
Industry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering

Cite this

Propulsion for CubeSats. / Lemmer, Kristina.

In: Acta Astronautica, Vol. 134, 01.05.2017, p. 231-243.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview article

Lemmer, Kristina. / Propulsion for CubeSats. In: Acta Astronautica. 2017 ; Vol. 134. pp. 231-243
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