Chemical and cold gas propulsion systems

Angelo Cervone*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

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This chapter discusses the current status of chemical and cold gas micro-propulsion systems for small satellites, with a particular focus on CubeSats. Initially, a short historical background is presented, focusing specifically on the precursor cold gas systems developed and demonstrated on small spacecraft in the decade 2000-10. A brief overview of the principle of operation of systems based on the thermodynamic expansion of a gas in a nozzle is then provided, including the simplified equations for characterizing their performance based on the one-dimensional, isentropic Ideal Rocket Theory. In particular, the specific technical challenges associated with the miniaturization of this class of propulsion systems are highlighted and shortly explained. The current state-of-the-art available commercial-off-the-shelf chemical and cold gas micro-propulsion systems is then described in detail, including comparative tables with their main design characteristics and performance parameters. Based on these tables, performance charts are presented that define a range of possible applications of this class of micro-propulsion systems to small satellite missions and tasks. Finally, some of the future expectations in the development of these systems are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNext Generation CubeSats and SmallSats
Subtitle of host publicationEnabling Technologies, Missions, and Markets
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780128245415
ISBN (Print)9780128245422
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • chemical propulsion
  • cold gas propulsion
  • CubeSat propulsion systems
  • Micro-propulsion


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