NASA’s New Millennium Program (NMP) aims to develop, test, and use technologies that will improve space exploration and make spacecraft more autonomous. Each NMP flight is set to carry a suite of technologies to be tested in space. One of those projects, the Space Technology 5 (ST-5) Spacecraft Mission developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, is building and testing three satellites that will aid scientists in understanding the harsh environment of Earth’s magnetosphere.
The ST-5 is a constellation of three full-service microsatellites launched in a polar elliptical orbit, each using a single thruster per craft in a blow-down cold gas system. After launch, the satellites begin only a few meters apart. Within approximately 20 days, they are placed into a formation 25 to 125 miles apart from each other to perform coordinated multipoint measurements of Earth’s magnetic field.
For this mission, Marotta’s Cold Gas Micro Thruster (CGMT) was used to provide satellite propulsion. The CGMT is a tiny electromechanical system designed to provide fine attitude adjustments on each of the microsatellites. It offers more than 2,200 psia inlet pressure and provides satellite propulsion with <1 Watt peak power consumption using a five-volt voltage supply bus. This resulted in reduction of peak power of at least 85%, and cut the weight in half.
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