Novel Rocket Tech to Propel Small Satellites Across Space

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have created a rocket motor concept called a 'segregated fuel oxidizer' to enable CubeSat satellites to zoom across space. These small, low-cost satellites are an easy way for scientists to access space, but are lacking in one major area - on-board propulsion. The team has successfully tested a six-motor CubeSat-compatible propulsion array. In the new segregated fuel oxidizer system, the solid fuel and solid oxidizer are kept completely separate inside the rocket assembly. Mixed fuel and oxidizer systems are much more common and significantly more unstable. "Because the fuel and oxidizer are separate," says Bryce Tappan, an explosives chemist at Los Alamos, "it enables you to use higher-energy ingredients than you could use in a classic propellant architecture. This chemical propulsion mechanism produces very fast, high-velocity thrust, something not available with most electrical or compressed gas concepts."