On December 2nd 2019 the students of Team Power House presented their work at the Fall 2019 Georgia Tech Capstone Expo along with more than 140 other teams. Power House was tasked by Scout Aerospace to design a thrust chamber incorporating Hydroxylammonium Nitrate (HAN) fuels with parameters for use by CubeSats and small satellites. The team spent three months performing fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and materials analysis to lay the groundwork for a prototype model.
Small satellites are becoming more sophisticated. As the small satellite operator’s mission requirements grow so too must the hardware’s capabilities. This thrust chamber was designed to produce a maximum of 30 newtons of force with a specific impulse of 230 seconds or better while at the same time be compact enough to fit into a 10 cm cube. HAN and its derivatives are currently being explored as a green alternative for deadly hydrazine mono-propellants. Expensive precautions must be taken to fuel and de-fuel hydrazine on satellites prior to launch for the safety of the ground crew. By using safer green fuels the handling costs could be reduced by ten’s to hundred’s of thousands of dollars per mission. These green fuels have their own engineering hurdles to solve. Higher ignition and burn temperatures mean that heat must be carefully managed. The analysis performed by Power House represents Scout’s first step towards producing small spacecraft hardware in Georgia.
The project was funded in part by NASA through the Georgia Space Grant Consortium (GSGC). The GSGC provided Scout Aerospace with a $10,000 grant to foster partnerships and internships for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate goal to develop transformative space technologies. Scout Aerospace seeks to further develop this thrust chamber to create a modular propulsion package for use in orbital servicing and manufacturing.