Phase Four To Develop Novel Plasma Propulsion System for DARPA.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Feb. 16, 2022 – Phase Four, the creator of the radio-frequency thruster (RF Thruster) for satellite propulsion, announced today that it finalized a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to adapt the RF Thruster to operate on novel, low cost propellants. The effort includes the development of a prototype engine and vacuum chamber testing. The results of the prototyping effort will demonstrate the proof of concept of a novel plasma propulsion system for various mission applications.
“One of the unique aspects of our core technology, the RF Thruster, is propellant agnosticism,” said Phase Four VP of Advanced Development, Jason Wallace. “Unlike legacy electric propulsion systems that rapidly degrade when exposed to non-traditional propellants, Phase Four’s RF Thruster is ideally suited to operate with novel propellants. We look forward to working with DARPA to further prove out this capability for future defense and commercial missions and constellations.”
The Maxwell Block 1 engine from Phase Four was certified for flight in 2021 and is currently in use on a number of commercial small spacecraft. The business recently unveiled their second generation RF Thruster, which outperformed the first generation thruster by a wide margin. The RF Thruster from Phase Four has been shown to work with a number of atypical propellants, including water, oxygen-nitrogen combinations, and isopropyl alcohol. On an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)-sponsored program, the company is now performing thrust measurements with their Maxwell engine converted to operate on iodine, and it just earned a Space Force Pitch Day award to test on green propellant.
“Phase Four continues to demonstrate the versatility of the RF Thruster,” said Phase Four CEO, Beau Jarvis. “Bringing low cost, high performance novel propellants to market through our Maxwell engine is an important step to transforming the satellite industry. Not only do these novel propellants support the industry shift towards lower cost, mass manufactured satellites, they provide unique propulsive capabilities to expand mission possibilities for our customers.”
Phase Four is a disruptive provider of next generation electric propulsion (EP) solutions for small satellites. The company was founded in 2015 to address the demands of the rapid proliferation of satellite constellations and to accelerate the advancement of its radio-frequency thruster (RFT). The Phase Four RFT represents a revolutionary new architecture that realizes lower cost, mass-manufacturability, miniaturized power electronics, and propellant agnosticism over incumbent technologies, without compromising performance. In 2021 Phase Four’s Maxwell turn-key propulsion system achieved flight heritage and is now being regularly utilized by small satellite operators. Learn more at www.phasefour.io.
SOURCE Phase Four, Inc.