In-orbit micro-propulsion demonstrator for PICO-satellite applications

V. Pallichadath, L. Turmaine, A. Melaika, S. Gelmi, M. Vilella Ramisa, D. Rijlaarsdam, M. A.C. Silva, D. C. Guerrieri, M. S. Uludag, B. Zandbergen, A. Cervone*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Delft University of Technology is currently developing the pico-satellite platform Delfi-PQ, based on the PocketQube standard, in pursuit of a new generation of satellites with lower cost, flexibility and short development time. A technology demonstration payload expected to fly in one of the first Delfi-PQ satellites is a dual thruster micro-propulsion system based on the use of water as propellant. Two different micro-resistojet concepts will be demonstrated in the same satellite flight: one based on vaporization, heating and expansion in a nozzle of pressurized liquid water (Vaporizing Liquid Micro-resistojet); the other based on heating and acceleration in slots with simple geometry of molecules of vapour under transitional or free molecular flow regime (Low Pressure Micro-resistojet). The demonstrator is based on a common propellant storage for the two micro-propulsion concepts, based on the use of the capillarity properties of water in a small diameter tube connected to the two separate MEMS thruster chips with their own dedicated valves. This paper describes the requirements and design of the complete micro-propulsion demonstrator as well as its expected operational envelope for in-orbit functional testing, based on the currently validated performance characteristics of the two thrusters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-423
Number of pages10
JournalActa Astronautica
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • cubesats
  • MEMS
  • Micro-propulsion
  • Micro-resistojet
  • PocketQube


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