Innovators at NASA Glenn developed a suite of small spacecraft electric propulsion (SSEP) technologies critical to enabling new, ambitious missions into deep space. Advanced SSEP technologies are based on the use of exceptionally fuel-efficient electrostatic Hall effect thrusters with optimized magnetic shielding, achieving massive reductions in propellant mass relative to traditional chemical propulsion systems. The low-power, high-throughput SSEP technology dramatically increases the capabilities of small spacecraft while maximizing reliability and reducing launch costs.
The PPU conditions and supplies power to the thruster and propellant flow control (PFC) components. It operates from an input voltage of 24 to 34 VDC to be compatible with typical small spacecraft with 28 V unregulated power systems. The PPU provides fault protection to protect the PPU, thruster, PFC components, and spacecraft. It is scalable to accommodate various power and operational requirements of low-power Hall effect thrusters.
An important subsystem of a PPU is the discharge supply, which processes up to 95 percent of the power in the PPU and must process high voltage to accelerate thrust-generating plasma. Each discharge power module in this PPU design is capable of processing up to 500 W of power and output up to 400 VDC. A full-bridge topology operating at switching frequency of 50 kHz is used with a lightweight foil transformer. Two or more modules can operate in parallel to scale up the discharge power as required. Output voltage and current regulation controls allow for any of the common thruster startup modes (hard, soft, or glow).
NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at