Carried to orbit on a Ball Aerospace smallsat, the GPIM project will test an innovative, efficient alternative to toxic conventional chemical propellants.
Credits: Ball Aerospace
The Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion system aboard NASA’s pioneering Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) completed checkout and the first series of flight test operations in October and November of 2019. Operating on an environmentally friendly propellant boasting lower toxicity and higher performance compared to traditional propulsion technologies, the system is performing as predicted.
Launched June 25, 2019, GPIM is a small satellite built by Ball Aerospace intended primarily to demonstrate a new “green” propellant developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, ASCENT (Advanced SpaceCraft Energetic Non-toxic Propellant), formerly known as AF-M315E. The GPIM propulsion subsystem features five 1-newton thrusters designed and built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. These are arranged on one face of the rectangular spacecraft, with four corner thrusters for steering/pointing and a fifth center thruster providing additional thrust during orbit change firings.
The GPIM spacecraft completed a series of thruster firings demonstrating that the green propellant technology provides all functions required for typical spacecraft operations. The propulsion subsystem will be characterized multiple times to verify thruster life. Each propulsive maneuver is optimized to lower the orbit of the space vehicle, with the final thruster firing placing GPIM in an orbit to re-enter the atmosphere, promoting space environment sustainability.
Aerojet Rocketdyne shares everything you need to know about NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission on the above episode of “Fuel for Thought.”
“Green propellants can reduce mission costs by simplifying safety logistics and equipment needed for pre-launch handling operations at the launch site, as well as extend mission life because of the higher performance it offers,” said Ron Spores, GPIM Program Manager for Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Aerojet Rocketdyne has led the way in propulsion technology since the earliest days of the Space Age, and this is just one example of how we are staying ahead of the curve.”
GPIM is funded by the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Learn more about Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Green Propulsion Capabilities at https://www.rocket.com/innovation/green-propulsion.