5N Low Throughput (LT) Thruster

Technical Overview

The 5N LT design enabled cheaper and faster  manufacturability whilst still maintaining high performance, only sacrificing on total throughput. This low-throughput thruster design targets small satellite (smallsat) mission applications where their primary function would be orbit insertions, breaking maneuvers, and de-orbiting. The 5N LT thruster demonstrated a specific impulse of 264 seconds and an accumulated firing time of almost 25 minutes. 

Several flight thrusters were built and qualified for flight, all of which displayed high performance and impressive lifetime for a low-cost short duration thruster. The rapid development achieved provided critical insights into the design of short, medium, and long lifetime ASCENT thruster designs for future applications.

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ATTRIBUTE 5N Low Throughput (LT) Thruster
TRL 6 (Engineered for Flight)
Thrust Range 1 - 6 N
Specific Impulse 261 s (steady state)
221 s (pulse mode)
Heater Power < 25W (TBR)
Throughput 3 kg
Acc. Burn Time 24 min
Acc. Pulses > 700
MIB < 0.7 Ns
Mass (w/o valve) 250 g

The pace of space technology innovation and applications is at breakneck speed, and SmallSat capabilities are ever increasing. It now seems that we are witnessing a paradigm shift where the exponential demand for shorter lived smallsats that keep closer pace with technology advancements far outpaces the demand for big GEO satellites built to last decades.

As a consequence, it is observed that there is a divergence in life requirements for propulsion systems as well. A smallsat can only carry so much propellant; there is no cost benefit to having a thruster that is qualified and priced for a throughput that far exceeds the need. The point is that there is a divergence, and a need for lower cost options to consider. That is why RUBICON has developed the 5N LT thruster.