A report proposes a small spacecraft attitude-control thruster in which the propellant material would be hydrazine that would be stored frozen until sublimed at the instant of use. From the upstream to the downstream end, the main components of the thruster would include a plug of solid hydrazine in a container, a rapid source of radiant heat (e.g., a laser diode or a flash lamp), and a heated-catalyst-and-nozzle assembly like that of a conventional hydrazine thruster. In operation, each pulse of radiant heat would cause a small amount of frozen hydrazine to sublime. The puff of hydrazine vapor thus generated would become chemically decomposed in the heated catalyst, and an impulse would be generated by the expansion of the puff of decomposition products in the nozzle. This thruster would be attractive for generating small impulses (impulse "bits") on command for precise maneuvering of a spacecraft that either remains below the freezing temperature of hydrazine (≈274 K) or that contains equipment to keep the hydrazine refrigerated.

This work was done by Larry Roe of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To obtain a copy of the report, "Subliming Solid Hydrazine Thruster," access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp  under the Machinery/Automation category.


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Thruster Based on Sublimation of Solid Hydrazine

(reference NPO-20540) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the February, 2001 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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