Phase Four, makers of radio frequency (RF) plasma engines for in-space propulsion, has been awarded an SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Phase I contract by Air Force tech accelerator AFWERX, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Security Innovation Network.
As part of this partnership, beginning in March 2020, Phase Four will work with the Air Force to adapt its revolutionary Maxwell in-space propulsion system to meet the needs of defense users.
Affordable and reliable in-space propulsion is an essential requirement for both commercial and defence next-generation satellite constellations. The Phase Four Radio-Frequency Thruster (RFT) is the first solution to address the cost, manufacturing, and performance needs of high volume satellite constellations. Its simple architecture allows manufacturing to scale up easily, and accommodates a wide range of solid, liquid, and gas propellants. In turn, these features potentially open an even wider range of mission possibilities, including missions in deep space and very low Earth orbit.
Maxwell is a complete in-space propulsion system built on Phase Four's RFT. It includes power electronics, software, and a pressurized storage vessel for 1 kg of xenon, providing over 10,000 Ns of impulse. Maxwell is delivered in an enclosure smaller than 19 cm x 19 cm x 14 cm. Customer deliveries began earlier this month.