2012.C.1.2 Ion Electrospray Thruster Assembly for CubeSats


François Martel (1) and Paulo Lozano (2)

  1. Espace Inc.
  2. MIT


C.1 – Propulsion Issues for Interplanetary Cubesat Missions


cubesat, thruster, attitude, propulsion, precision


The miniature ion electrospray thrusters developed at MIT can be operated as very high resolution actuators for precision thrusting of space structures. Their small size and high ISp make them also ideal for cubesat propulsion and attitude control. We present and describe a sixteen thruster assembly currently under development that provides several hundred meters of Delta V to cubesats with pitch, roll and yaw control, fitting in a volume of 1/3 of a Cubesat. The assembly provides very high resolution voltage (16 bits) and pulse control and is applicable to interplanetary propulsion and precision pointing of cubesats. With a few hundred grams of additional propellant such assembly could also bring a LEO 3U Cubesat to escape velocity. One application of interest among many is for the control of a swarm of nanosats deployed into a large baseline sparse array antenna for RF imaging from interplanetary space.


  • Download slides in PDF format here
  • Low quality video available here


  • Optional paper not submitted

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