Combined chemical-electric propulsion for a stand-alone mars Cubesat

Karthik V. Mani, Angelo Cervone, Francesco Topputo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Stand-alone interplanetary CubeSats require primary propulsion systems for orbit maneuvering and precise trajectory control. The current work focuses on the design and performance characterization of the combined chemical-electric propulsion systems that shall enable a stand-alone 16U CubeSat mission on a hybrid high-thrust-low-thrust trajectory from a supersynchronous geostationary transfer orbit to a circular orbit about Mars. The high-thrust chemical propulsion is used to escape Earth and to initiate stabilization at Mars. The low-thrust electric propulsion is used in heliocentric transfer, ballistic capture, and circularization. For chemical propulsion, design and performance characteristics of a monopropellant thruster and feed system using ADN-based FLP-106 propellant are presented. For electric propulsion, a performance model of an iodine-propelled inductively coupled miniature radiofrequency ion thruster is implemented to calculate the variation of thrust, specific impulse, and efficiency with input power. A power-constrained low-thrust trajectory optimization using the thruster performance model is pursued to calculate the transfer time, ΔV, and the required propellant mass for fuel-optimal and time-optimal transfers. Overall, the combined chemical-electric systems yield a feasible propulsion solution for stand-alone CubeSat missions to Mars that balances propellant mass and transfer time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1816-1830
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Combined chemical-electric propulsion for a stand-alone mars Cubesat'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this