First Iodine Fueled Ion Engines Pass Major Milestone


BIT – 3 thruster and neutralizer firing on xenon (top) and iodine (bottom). (Credit: Busek Co.)
NATICK, MA, JULY 31, 2017 (Busek PR) – Space propulsion firm Busek Co. Inc. confirms its ‘BIT-3’ ion thruster system completed two separate Critical D esign Reviews (CDR) for upcoming CubeSat space flight programs. CDRs are major milestones prior to manufacturing flight hardware, the initial set of BIT-3 flight systems being scheduled for delivery Q1 2018. The iodine fueled solar electric propulsion systems are the first of their kind which enable an entirely new range of small spacecraft missions.

Two public missions relying upon the BIT-3 for high delta-v propulsion include Morehead State University’s Lunar IceCube and Arizona State University’s LunaH-Map. The NASA-funded, University-lead science missions will each place a 14 kilogram (30.9 lbs.) CubeSat into lunar polar orbit after deployment from NASA’s Space Launch System EM-1 mission. The miniature solar electric propulsion system incorporates several patented and patent-pending features, including the use of solid iodine propellant versus traditional high-pressure Xenon gas.

“This mission wouldn’t be possible without the BIT-3, and we’re proud to have Busek as a partner. It’s a game-changing technology for the whole CubeSat community,” said Prof. Ben Malphrus, Principal Investigator of Morehead State University’s Lunar IceCube mission.

Prof. Craig Hardgrove, Arizona State University’s Principal Investigator for LunaH-Map added, “The BIT-3 is critical technology that will allow small spacecraft and CubeSats to acquire high quality scientific results on interplanetary missions throughout the solar system. It truly enables the science of the LunaH-Map mission, mapping water-ice at the lunar south pole with a miniature neutron spectrometer.”

Ion thruster system (Credit: Busek Co.
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