Ball Aerospace has concluded on-orbit testing activities for a small satellite containing an Air Force Research Laboratory-developed nontoxic propellant as part of a NASA effort to deploy sustainable and environmentally friendly spacecraft.
The company said Thursday it built the Ball Configurable Platform smallsat for the Green Propellant Infusion Mission, which launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy in June 2019 and includes Aerojet Rocketdyne-built thrusters.
AFRL’s ASCENT substance, which contains oxidizer monopropellant and Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate elements, is intended to serve as a "green" replacement for chemical propulsion systems.
The GPIM effort falls under the NASA's Technology Demonstration Missions initiative aimed at producing viable alternatives to current spacecraft propulsion systems.
"GPIM has the potential to inspire new ideas and new missions, which could mean smaller spacecraft, faster and easier ground processing, longer design lives and more – enabling science at any scale,” said Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager for civil space at Ball Aerospace.
GPIM is slated to conduct final maneuvers to deplete remaining ASCENT fuel ahead of the spacecraft’s reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.