Propulsion Modules for Cubesat Spacecrafts

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Дата публикации:
23 декабря 2021, 15:06
Секция 03. Основоположники аэрокосмического двигателестроения и проблемы теории и конструкций двигателей летательных аппаратов
Kudinov Alexander Sergeevich
Keldysh Research Center
Fedorov Sergei Alekseevich
Keldysh Research Center
Yurchenko Irina Ivanovna
Keldysh Research Center
Partola Igor Stanislavovich
Keldysh Research Center
Mosolov Sergey Vladimirovich
Keldysh Research Center
Klimenko Alexander Gennadievich
Keldysh Research Center
The modular principle of building propulsion systems for spacecraft of the "kubsat" format, adopted by the world's main developers of spacecraft, is considered. The modular design of the propulsion system assumes the placement in a single compact unit of all the main elements of the propulsion system: tanks, low-thrust engines, control and supply elements. General requirements for micro propulsion systems have been formed, the main of which are modularity, scalability, safety, high performance, short production and delivery times, low cost.
Ключевые слова:
spacecraft, CubeSat, propulsion modules, module approach
Основной текст труда

The standard mechanical and electrical interface in the modular principle of the propulsion system construction provides the possibility of its direct installation in typical spacecraft of the «cubesat» format (proportional to one unit 1 U = 10x10x10 cm).

The paper contains a short review of progress in module propulsion systems development for CubeSat spacecrafts [1–4]. Green propulsion systems based on ecologically friendly fuel, cold gas thrusters, hybrid and bi-propellant propulsion are considered. Recent Cubesat propulsion design parameters are met manufactures requirements for cost minimization and decreasing of manufacturing complexity of Cubesat prelaunch preparation. As the common practice of Cubesat delivery to space orbit is supplementary load attached to the main spacecraft the safety requirements become crucial. Cubesat systems must provide avoiding any damages and negative effects to main spacecraft. Green propulsion systems based and ecologically friendly fuel help to meet such type demands. Basic standards and approaches for CubeSat propulsions design and properties are formed as follows:

  • propulsion module design and total thrust impulse scalability according to CubeSat dimensions provided by fuel tank volume variability;
  • quick and simple propulsion module integration into Cubesat platform;
  • ecologically friendly fuel providing personal safety and decreasing costs over the cubesat preparation life cycle, affordability and short manufacturing period;
  • high specific impulse, multiple ignitions, propulsion subsystems low response time, impulse and durational ignition capability.

Flight Cubesat module propulsion systems examples based on various fuel types with monopropellant bipropellant ecologically friendly thrusters, gas thrusters and hybrid propulsion modules are considered.    

Propulsion modules for Cubesat spacecraft development is becoming a new direction of space technology evolution that provides improving of Cubesat effectiveness. For today flight experience has gained of micro thrusters based on “green” fuel, cold gas micro propulsion modules, researches for application of alternative fuel including water electrolysis are providing. It could be said that general requirements for micro propulsion modules have formed and the key requirements are module design, scalability, safety, low response time, short manufacturing and delivery period, low cost.

  1. Gibbon D., Underwood C. Low Cost Butane Propulsion Systems for Small Spacecraft. Proceeding of the 15th AIAA/USU Conference of Small Satellites, SSC01-XI-1, 2001.
  2. ArgoMoon Propulsion System. VACCO Industries. Available at: (accessed November 8, 2021).
  3. Cocomazzi R., Avanzi A., Modenini D., Tortora P. Systems Design and Performance of Cold Gas Microthruster for Microsatellite Attitude Control. AIAA-2006-4629, 42nd AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE. Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit. Sacramento, California, July 9–12, 2006.
  4. Zoellner A., Conklin J.W., Buchman S., Balakrishnan K. The Drag-free CubeSat. 9th Annual Spring CubeSat Developer's Workshop. Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA, April 18–20, 2012.
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