Space Propulsion

Small-Satellite / CubeSat Propulsion

CU Aerospace develops complete, high-performance, and compact small-satellite propulsion solutions.  The propulsion units come fully integrated with all necessary propulsion subsystems, including microcontroller, power processing unit, propellant valves, heaters, sensors, and software.  Units are software-configurable to operate over a wide range of power, thrust, and impulse levels.  System set-points, system status, and firing telemetry are all accessible and configurable through an RS422 serial interface.  Propulsion units may be customized to meet customer specific mission requirements.


CU Aerospace has designed and built CubeSail, a system of 2x1.5U CubeSat satellites which is highly scalable. This project was selected to receive NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative support from NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

Gallium Electro-Magnetic Thruster (GEM)

The GEM Thruster is a high-power propulsion system that CU Aerospace is developing for potential cislunar and interplanetary cargo and manned missions. GEM thrusters are a better choice than xenon Hall Thrusters because gallium is significantly more affordable and more readily available than xenon.

Pulsed Plasma Thruster (PPT)

CU Aerospace has developed highly-improved low-power Teflon-fueled thrusters for satellites. Electric thrusters operate at high specific impulse (500-5000 sec) to reduce fuel mass. The PPT uses advanced power conditioning equipment and is useful for station-keeping of satellite constellations, as a substitute for momentum wheels in attitude control systems, and as a precision thrust source for formation-flying satellite systems. Achieving the efficiency target of 25% would make the thruster much less expensive than the commonly-used Hall Thruster. Similar to the GEM thruster, the PPT is also competitive because the solid propellant system is simpler, less expensive, and more reliable than high-pressure xenon systems.