REGULUS: A propulsion platform to boost small satellite missions

M. Manente, F. Trezzolani, M. Magarotto, E. Fantino, A. Selmo, N. Bellomo, E. Toson, D. Pavarin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations

Abstract

REGULUS is a propulsion platform for CubeSats. It integrates the Magnetically Enhanced Thruster (MET) and its subsystems (i.e., fluidic line, electronics, and thermo-structural components) in a 2U envelope of weight lower than 3 kg. MET is a RF cathode-less thruster capable of providing thrust in the range 300 μN to 900 μN, with maximum specific impulse of 900 s and maximum operation power of 60 W. The performance has been measured with a dedicated thrust balance, when the thruster is operated with 0.1 mg/s of Xenon gas. REGULUS: (i) is compatible with thermal, mechanical and electrical interfaces of the CubeSat platforms available in the marked, (ii) it relies on COTS components to abate the recurrent costs, and (iii) it is based on a passive thermal control system. The main framework of application of the REGULUS platform is the propulsion of medium-to-large CubeSats (from 6U up to 27U). Such capability is here demonstrated by comparing MET with other thrusters for CubeSats offered in the market. The feasibility of two possible mission scenarios, namely drag compensation and constellation deployment, has been verified through preliminary orbit calculations. The REGULUS platform can compensate the effects of atmospheric drag on a 6U CubeSat in a 400 km altitude orbit for years. Besides, by exploiting the natural drift of the ascending node caused by the second zonal harmonic of the terrestrial gravity field, a CubeSat constellation can be deployed through several planes in some months employing small fractions of the onboard propellant.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)241-249
Number of pages9
JournalActa Astronautica
Volume157
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2019

Keywords

  • Constellation deployment
  • CubeSat propulsion
  • Drag compensation
  • Low-thrust maneuvers
  • RF cathode-less thruster
  • Subsystem integration

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