Authors: David Krejci, Alexander Reissner, Tony Schönherr, Bryan Little, Quirin Koch, Bernhard Seifert

Published On: 17 – 18 – 19 MARCH 2021, SP2020_00214


The ENPULSION NANO thruster (formerly: IFM Nano Thruster) is a FEEP propulsion system, providing unmatched total impulse in a volume of just under 10x10x10 cm, including propellant tank, power electronics and all auxiliaries. At time of writing, 62 IFM Nano Thruster have been launched on spacecraft ranging from several kilograms to over 150 kilograms. The IFM technology is based on liquid metal Field Emission Electric Propulsion (FEEP) principle, producing thrust by electrostatically accelerating previously extracted and ionized propellant to high exhaust velocity. The IFM Nano Thruster can be operated between 10 and 40 W input power including neutralizer, resulting in thrust of up to 0.35 mN. By varying extraction potentials, the thruster can be operated at specific impulse levels between 2000 s and 6000 s, adapting to mission needs as well as power availability. Due to the high specific impulse and high propellant density, the thruster can produce total impulses of 5000 Ns when operated at specific impulses at 2000 s and 5000 s respectively. Since the first In-Orbit-Demonstration of the IFM Nano Thruster in early 2018, ENPULSION has built up a high-rate series production facility, which has been producing 2 flight thrusters per week since June 2018. Over 100 flight thrusters have been delivered to customers at time of writing. This work provides an overview of the current status of FEEP propulsion system, including in-orbit data of IFM Nano Thrusters. It discusses new characterization efforts undertaken, including neutralization  measurements over the full performance envelope, and discusses ongoing product updates and testing.

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