Last year AASC was selected by ASTRA LLC to deliver a flight-ready version of their Metal Plasma Thruster (MPT) for ASTRA’s upcoming EWS Rapid Revisit Optical Cloud Imager (RROCI) Mission, which has been announced will be scheduled for launch in early 2022.
A flight ready unit will be delivered to Pumpkin Labs in San Francisco, California, which will build and integrate the 12U spacecraft bus. The AASC MPT will raise the 12U spacecraft from its injection orbit up to its operational orbit in the early mission phase, provide attitude adjustments throughout the mission and finally maneuver the craft down to a lower orbit for burn-up at the end of the mission.
AASC provides a compact, reliable electric propulsion thruster with no moving parts, using solid metal propellant and a low (45V) voltage power processing unit. The scalable MPT configurations are described at AASC’s website. AASC has the capability to manufacture the MPT line with short lead times and at a relatively low cost compared to other electric propulsion solutions.
ASTRA, LLC was selected by the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) to develop and demonstrate an Electro-Optical / Infrared (EO/IR) LEO-based cloud characterization solution (RROCI) that supports U.S. warfighter operations.
AASC has matured the MPT thruster with recent support from NASA via an SBIR contract. Direct thrust measurements made at NASA on a sensitive pendulum thrust stand confirm the predictions based on plasma parameters in the thruster.