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SunRISE Propulsion System

Project Sponsor
Utah State University Space Dynamics Lab (SDL)
Project Status
Flight Unit Assembly and Testing
Faculty Investigator
Dr. Glenn Lightsey
SSDL is designing and building six additively manufactured cold gas propulsion systems for a formation of small satellites that will launch into a geocentric supersynchronous orbit in 2023. The propulsion systems will be used for autonomous stabilization after deployment, primary delta-V maneuvers, and reaction control.
sunrise concept

The Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment, or SunRISE, is a planned formation of six 6U CubeSats whose objective is to serve as a space-based low radio frequency array. They will observe the solar environment, creating a 3D map that will determine where large particle emissions come from on the Sun and how they evolve as they expand outward. The mission will also work to map the pattern of magnetic field lines from the Sun that reach into interplanetary space.

SSDL’s responsibilities on the project include the design, manufacturing, and integration of the propulsion subsystem for each spacecraft, as well as environmental and acceptance testing. Each propulsion subsystem is then handed off to USU SDL for system integration.

The propulsion system design builds on SSDL’s previously cold-gas systems, utilizing additive manufacturing to print a single structure that combines propellant tank, fluid paths, and nozzles. This enables the design of complex and custom structures that would not be possible through traditional manufacturing approaches, limiting the possible sources of leak and failure through a reduced number of interfaces, and allowing for more efficient utilization of volume and mass within the system. The SunRISE propulsion systems use a non-toxic, commercial refrigerant as a propellant to provide high specific impulse. This propellant has also been used in SSDL’s previous cold-gas systems.

The increasing availability and applicability of CubeSat technology to Earth-based missions and beyond introduces increased need for more efficient and flexible propulsion systems. SSDL’s approach to propulsion system design allows for a  more robust and efficient system, successfully supporting more ambitious mission objectives and lifetimes.