Mission Capability Assessment of CubeSats Using a Miniature Ion Thruster

TitleMission Capability Assessment of CubeSats Using a Miniature Ion Thruster
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsConversano, Ryan W., and Richard E. Wirz
JournalAIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets
KeywordsCubesat, Micropropulsion
AbstractThe successful miniaturization of many spacecraft subsystems make CubeSats attractive candidates for evermore demanding scientific missions. A 3U Cubesat employing the Miniature Xenon Ion thruster, which features high efficiency and impulse capability, yields a unique spacecraft that can be optimized for a variety of missions ranging from significant inclination changes in a low Earth orbit to lunar transfers. A nominal configuration of a high-ΔV CubeSat has a dry mass of approximately 6.3 kg, including a 0.75kg payload, margins, and contingencies. Depending on the thruster and propellant tank configuration, this CubeSat is capable of delivering mission ΔV’s from 1000 m/s to over 7000 m/s, enabling low Earth orbit inclination change missions and lunar missions. A parametric analysis on a 3U high-ΔV CubeSat bus revealed that a range of payload volumes (up to nearly 1.4 U) and masses (up to nearly 6 kg) can be accommodated depending on the ΔV requirements and mission type. Additionally, this analysis showed that a high-ΔV 3U CubeSat in a 600 km low Earth orbit can be designed to provide inclination change of over 80°.

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