Propulsion Unit for CubeSats (PUC)
CU Aerospace is developing a Propulsion Unit for CubeSats (PUC), which is a 0.25U
package that uses a proprietary self-pressurizing, high density, low heat of vaporization liquid propellant, designated EP-13, that was chosen
from 350 candidates to maximize CubeSat delta-V. Primary thrust is approximately 4 mN, system power is 5.5 W, and total impulse is
> 250 N-s.
CUA 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 CUA 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 Thrusters (PPTs)
CU Aerospace has also 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.