NASA Orders RF Thrusters from Phase Four for its Small Satellite Propulsion System

NASA has purchased one of Phase Four's second-generation RF thrusters to vet its capabilities for small satellite propulsion. Phase Four is a provider of electric radio frequency (RF) thrusters for in-space propulsion.

The Phase Four thruster is part of an Integrated Propulsion Assembly (IPA) that contains: propellant storage and management, engine control electronics, power processing, and a thruster in one integrated solution. NASA will utilize the P4 propulsion solution to gain operational flight experience that demonstrates Phase Four's capability to meet NASA's upcoming small satellite mission goals. The IPA will be delivered to NASA in 2019.

According to Jason Wallace, VP of Operations at Phase Four and Program Manager for this NASA contract, propulsion systems are one of the most challenging and expensive components in a satellite, and thus Phase Four is excited by the potential to bring a cost-effective solution to NASA's upcoming SmallSat missions.

Based in El Segundo, CA, Phase Four builds an electrode-less RF thruster, the smallest plasma propulsion system available, which can be scaled for Cube- and SmallSat constellation satellites to larger, bus-sized satellites. Released on April 16, performance test results by The Aerospace Corporation reveal that Phase Four's RF thrusters measured on-par with today's costly state-of-the-art Hall Effect Thrusters (HET).