The ENPULSION NANO is a propulsion system with no moving parts and dynamic precise thrust control. The system has been developed and extensively tested in cooperation with the European Space Agency.
The ENPULSION NANO is a mature technology, developed under ESA contracts for 15 years. In this time more than 100 emitters have been tested and an ongoing lifetime test has demonstrated more than 20.000 hours of firing without degradation of the emitter performance.
The thrust can be controlled through the electrode voltages, providing excellent controllability over the full thrust range and a low thrust noise.
Due to the efficient ionization process which allows one to ionize up to 60% of the evaporated indium atoms, the ENPULSION NANO can provide a higher specific impulse than any other ion propulsion system currently on the market.
The ENPULSION NANO contains no moving parts and the propellant is in its solid state at room temperature. Avoiding any liquid and reactive propellants as well as pressurized tanks significantly simplifies handling, integration and launch procedures.
As the ENPULSION NANO expels an ion current of up to 4 mA, the module needs a method to prevent spacecraft charging. This is achieved by the use of two cold-redundant electron sources acting as neutralizers. Once electrons have left the neutralizer, they will be pulled towards the positive potential of the ion plume. The PPU is able to measure and control this charge balancing electron current.
The ENPULSION NANO is used as a compact pre-qualified building block in order to provide custom solutions at a commodity price and ultra-short lead times. Although building blocks are completely self-contained propulsion systems, the whole cluster can be operated as a single plug-and-play unit.
While the required power to operate the ENPULSION NANO starts at around 10 W, at higher thrust levels one can choose between high thrust and high specific impulse operation. The ENPULSION NANO can operate at an I sp range of 2,000 to 6,000 s.
At any given thrust point, higher I sp operation will increase the total impulse, while it will also increase the power demand. The thruster can be operated along the full dynamic range throughout the mission. This means that high Isp and low Isp maneuvers can be included in a mission planning, as well as high-thrust orbit maneuver and low-thrust precision control maneuvers. The firmware of the ENPULSION NANO has been optimized with lessons learnt from in-orbit verification.
The ENPULSION NANO can be clustered in order to meet any specific mission need. As we are using a number of prequalified modules (building blocks), this customization can be done without increasing the cost or lead times of the thruster.
- Matured technology
- Dynamic Precise thrust control
- Safe and inert system complaint
- Compact building blocks
- Redundant neutralizer cathodes
- Safe and inert system compliant during launch
- Controllable specific impulse up to 6,000 s
The system has achieved flight heritage. The ENPULSION NANO was successfully verified in orbit in early 2018, performing independently confirmed orbit changes. 37 propulsion units have been launched on various spacecraft by mid 2020. First thrusters have been successfully demonstrated in orbit in January 2018.
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Last updated: 2022-04-25