Launching 144 FEEP propulsion systems – on orbit data and lessons learnt

A recent peer reviewed journal paper published in the Journal of Electric Propulsion shows that, while many other successful propulsion companies talk about “units sold”, ENPULSION has reached an entirely different level of creating value for its customers by having 144 propulsion systems in space by the end of 2022.
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Wr. Neustadt, Austria, Jan 12th, 2023 – A recent peer reviewed journal paper published in the Journal of Electric Propulsion shows that, while many other successful propulsion companies talk about “units sold”, ENPULSION has reached an entirely different level of creating value for its customers by having 144 propulsion systems in space by the end of 2022.

“Successful industrialization of a propulsion system is not just about selling thrusters. The next step is delivering them and working with customers to integrate them into a large variety of missions. And then the ultimate challenge is to have them launched and operational in space. We are very proud to have reached this last step for this many propulsion systems”, said David Krejci, Chief Science Officer at ENPULSION.

David Krejci, Chief Science Officer at ENPULSION

The paper discusses the on orbit data availability and system integration aspects of the ENPULSION liquid metal FEEP propulsion systems. It presents flight data from thrusters on LEO spacecraft, and presents and discusses data availability from 142 NANO propulsion systems that were launched in the previous 4 years on 64 different spacecraft, ranging from 3 U Cubesats to > 100 kg platforms. In parallel, new propulsion systems based on FEEP technology have been developed, expanding the thrust and power range and introducing new features, as well as lessons learnt from the large space heritage of the NANO. Two of these new propulsion systems, the NANO AR3 and the MICRO R3, have been launched to space so far.

The ENPULSION NANO propulsion systems have been used in different configurations on a range of spacecraft ranging from 3 U to > 100 kg systems, and are used in a variety of different applications. Typical applications that use or plan to use the NANO have been:

  • bring into target orbit, in conjunction with ride share
  • formation and cluster initiation
  • maintenance of precise orbits to improve ground track
  • constellation rollout
  • deorbiting

In total, 144 propulsion systems have been launched, on a total of 66 different spacecraft. Accumulated orbit life for all operational propulsion systems where ENPULSION has visibility on thrust generation is 58.3 years.

Based on the significant heritage and data available on the NANO, several lessons learnt, and issues observed can be derived. These learnings can then be used to inform operators, while maintaining mission confidentiality, through the standardized documentation including user manual. In addition, lessons learnt are a valuable source for product improvement and ongoing product development.

A significant benefit of the large number of parallel on orbit commissionings and operations is the opportunity to improve operation across different missions. The large amount of data, operation time accumulated and learnings from multiple propulsion systems operated in different architectures and operation modes, allows for continuing learning of system behavior on orbit and improvement of propulsion system operation, including optimized commissioning strategies or identification of new FDIR conditions. This can create significant benefit as learnings can be shared across missions and customers by infusing findings into new revisions of the user manual, without violating mission confidentiality.

If you want to know more about the lessons learnt, you can read the full article here:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s44205-022-00020-z

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