Event Title

Smart Propellant

Session

Technical Session X: Mission Enabling Technologies 1

SSC10-X-1.pdf (517 kB)
Presentation Slides

Abstract

It costs thousands of dollars to put a kilogram of anything into orbit, including propellant. For many missions, one can significantly reduce the required on-orbit propellant mass by replacing cheap, “dumb” propellant with more expensive “smart” propellant composed of individual pico-, or nanospacecraft. The key is to use controlled ejection velocities and orbital mechanics to put these spacecraft on precise trajectories that eventually return them back to the host spacecraft for re-use. Each “smart propellant” spacecraft has on-board navigation, attitude control, and propulsion systems that enable fine-tuning of their trajectories for recapture. The ejected spacecraft mass, minus the expended on-board propellant mass for trajectory modification, can be re-used again and again. Smart propellant applications include orbit rephasing, orbit raising and lowering, and landing (plus subsequent take-off) on airless bodies. Required smart propellant ejection velocities range from tens of meters per second for rephasing to ten’s of kilometers per second for orbit raising in low Earth orbit. This paper presents results from orbital analyses of the above applications, their impact on smart propellant spacecraft design, and the potential use of mass-produced smart propellant pico- and nanospacecraft for human and robotic exploration of the Moon in the next decades.

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Aug 11th, 3:45 PM

Smart Propellant

It costs thousands of dollars to put a kilogram of anything into orbit, including propellant. For many missions, one can significantly reduce the required on-orbit propellant mass by replacing cheap, “dumb” propellant with more expensive “smart” propellant composed of individual pico-, or nanospacecraft. The key is to use controlled ejection velocities and orbital mechanics to put these spacecraft on precise trajectories that eventually return them back to the host spacecraft for re-use. Each “smart propellant” spacecraft has on-board navigation, attitude control, and propulsion systems that enable fine-tuning of their trajectories for recapture. The ejected spacecraft mass, minus the expended on-board propellant mass for trajectory modification, can be re-used again and again. Smart propellant applications include orbit rephasing, orbit raising and lowering, and landing (plus subsequent take-off) on airless bodies. Required smart propellant ejection velocities range from tens of meters per second for rephasing to ten’s of kilometers per second for orbit raising in low Earth orbit. This paper presents results from orbital analyses of the above applications, their impact on smart propellant spacecraft design, and the potential use of mass-produced smart propellant pico- and nanospacecraft for human and robotic exploration of the Moon in the next decades.