August 7, 2023

Rubicon to Build Next Generation 1N ASCENT Thrusters for AFRL Mission Applications

Rubicon to Build Next Generation 1N ASCENT Thrusters for AFRL Mission Applications

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has selected Rubicon Space Systems (Rubicon), a division of Plasma Processes LLC (Plasma). to build the 1N Advanced Spacecraft Energetic Non-toxic Propellant (ASCENT) thrusters that will be used for future space mission demonstrations. ASCENT monopropellant based propulsion provides satellites with the ability to maneuver without regret due to it’s increased energy density and streamline propellant loading operations due to its low toxicity.

In 2022, the Chemical Propulsion Flight Programs Group at AFRL completed its ASCENT monopropellant 1 Newton (1N) thruster testing in the Chemical in-Space Thruster Test and Research Site test facility. “This work is important to the U.S. Space Force since it provides satellites with propulsive capabilities that support space resiliency and space domain awareness,” said Corinne Sedano, AFRL group lead and senior research aerospace engineer. Plasma was one of several companies that built development thrusters for that test program. For that program, Plasma’s instrumented 1N thruster demonstrated nearly 2.5kg of propellant throughput and over 1.3 hours of accumulated firing time with no degradation in performance. When asked about it, Daniel Cavender, the Director of Propulsion for Rubicon Space Systems had this to say. “Being able to test at AFRL was extremely valuable to our program. The test data we gathered with AFRL has allowed us to validate many of our thruster design elements and anchor our digital models. This will allow us to make improvements to our flight design with confidence.

Over the next several months, Rubicon will finalize the flight design of its 1N high throughput (HT) thruster and begin manufacturing the flight thruster units. “By the end of this year, we expect to be ready to qualify this design for a range of AFRL missions,” Cavender said. “We are excited to support AFRL’s mission and technology goals by delivering this next generation ASCENT thruster.”

About AFRL: The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit:

About Plasma Processes: Plasma Processes is a supplier of advanced materials solutions to commercial and government customers in the aerospace, defense, power generation, oil & gas, semi-conductor, and other key industries, with expertise with high and ultra-high temperature materials, such as iridium, rhenium, tungsten and molybdenum, and can apply coatings or create custom parts and powders using our advanced deposition processes.  Plasma Processes is AS9100D with ISO 9001:2015 certified. For more information, visit:

About Rubicon Space Systems: Rubicon Space Systems is a manufacturer of thrusters and propulsion systems that use the advanced space craft energetic non-toxic (ASCENT) propellant AF-M315E. Applications are in-space propulsion, collision avoidance, de-orbit, and multi-mode. Our team leads the world in the development and infusion of ASCENT-based technology.

Distribution Statement A: Approved for Public Release; Distribution is Unlimited. PA# AFRL-2023-3825