TubeSat aims to test Ion Engine

FRETS1 TubeSat – Image Credit Wes Faler

Wes Faler is building a small satellite called Fluid & Reason Engine Test Satellite 1 or FRETS1.

FRETS1 is a TubeSat-style picosatellite that aims to fly in 2013 on an Interorbital Systems Neptune rocket into a 310 km sun synchronous orbit. Its mission is to test a new kind of ion engine, one designed for higher thrust and lower power than traditional designs.

It’s planned to use a closed cell foam filled with pressurized nitrogen, vaporizing the supporting plastic and releasing the enclosed nitrogen using a spark system similar to that used by Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs).  PPTs create an arc across the face of a solid Teflon bar, turning a few micrograms of Teflon into plasma.  The plasma moves along the PPT’s cathode and anode by Lorentz forces, much the same way that a rail gun accelerates its conducting projectile.

This video gives a brief overview of what a TubeSat is.

Watch SatTV Technology Update – TubeSat

Note it is understood the first launches will take place in California rather than the site mentioned in the video.

Building An Ion Engine

FRETS1 TubeSat

Interorbital Systems

Tubesat – Image Credit Interorbital Systems