SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  AF071-284 (AirForce)
Title:  Modular, Scalable Propulsion Module for ESPA-Based Satellite Dispensing Systems
Research & Technical Areas:  Space Platforms

 The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals, their country of origin, and what tasks each would accomplish in the statement of work in accordance with section 3.5.b.(7) of the solicitation.
  STATEMENT OF INTENT: Intent is to develop an EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) based satellite Dispensing system, a technology of very high priority to this PEO
  Objective:  Develop a low-cost propulsion module with simple mechanical and electrical interfaces that can be added to an EELV Secondary Payload Adapter(ESPA) or free-flying small satellite.
  Description:  Currently, the EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) is the Air Force's primary launch vehicle. Many of the current and future satellites to be launched on EELVs do not fully use the volume and mass capabilities of the system. Therefore, in order to decrease continually rising launch costs, there is a major effort to add secondary payloads to the launches with these primary satellites. To that end, the EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring [1] was conceived and developed to take advantage of medium-class EELV performance margins in order to provide launch accommodation for multiple micro satellites as secondary payloads. The ESPA resides between the EELV upper stage and the launch vehicle's primary passenger, and up to six micro satellites can separate from it. More recently the ESPA's use has evolved into the primary structure for highly capable free flying small satellites, such as AFRL's Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) [2]. The ESPA's unique flexibility is that it can provide these types of launch accommodations on just about any EELV flight that has sufficient performance margin, and there are many such launches anticipated over the next ten years. One inherent issue with this approach is that in such rideshares, there is a basic requirement that the primary and any secondaries do not share an orbit. This currently means that the EELV upper stage has to reach the primary's orbit, drop it off, and then re-ignite and inject the remaining components (the upper stage, the ESPA ring and the secondaries) into a different orbit. Inherently, this approach limits the launch vehicle's flexibility to provide secondaries their desired orbits, especially if they all want different orbits. Even if sufficient propellant margin exists, other launch vehicle upper stage mission duration, consumables, and engine re-start constraints can impose strict limits on orbital repositioning capabilities beyond the orbit injection location of the primary payload which often is not ideal for the secondary payloads. If the ESPA platform were upgraded with a dedicated low-cost orbital maneuvering propulsion system, these limitations could be overcome. To that end, this topic is looking for innovative ways to provide the ESPA ring with an upgraded capability to become its own free-flyer. The basic idea is to separate the ESPA ring from the upper stage soon after the primary's separation, let the upper stage then de-orbit while the ESPA ring and the attached secondary satellites maneuver to one or more differing orbits, dropping the secondaries off into their desired trajectories. Proposers need to identify new and innovative ways of attaching propulsion, basic avionics, power, and simple telecommunications to the ESPA ring capable of supporting multiple ignitions, basic positional ephemeris relays to the ground, and standard separation commands multiple times. The system needs to be able to be packaged either within the ESPA circumference (with enough remaining access for on-launch-pad servicing by technicians between the upper stage and the primary) or within the confines of a single secondary's allotted volume (to be attached similarly to a secondary, but without the capability to separate from the ring). The end result should be a plan to develop and then produce an ESPA On-orbit Maneuvering System (OMS) to enhance the capability of the EELV to launch multiple secondary satellites to their desired orbits once the primary has been deployed to its orbit. Environmental testing of the flight hardware should not be considered in the cost proposal. The system should be inherently low risk and traceable, with the expectation it would eventually have to undergo review commensurate with range safety considerations and minimizing additional risk imposed on a high-value payload. Dry mass of the populated ESPA ring may vary from 400-1,000 kg and the maximum (wet) mass of the ESPA OMS should not exceed 1,205 kg. This innovation should uniquely combine the necessary logical control, power, propulsion, and telecommunication to be able to propel up to six secondary satellites into unique orbits from the ESPA ring. The component technology used should already be flight-qualified; the innovation for this topic lies in the creative arrangement of components to achieve the aforementioned goal. An ideal innovation for this topic would have a delta V between 800 and 1000 m/s and a mass of 600-700 kg.

  PHASE I: Focus on a modular, scalable architecture using commercial off-the-shelf and flight-qualified technology using storable propellants, rather than new development. Goal is a suitable architecture for an ESPA OMS module w/preliminary design level of TRL of 3 or 4. Report expected delta V.
  PHASE II: The Phase II should result in a flight hardware system or subsystem ready for launch. Systems predicted to cost in excess of the Phase II ceiling are considered responsive to the solicitation. The proposer should strive to develop critical components or subsystems to flight hardware status. At the conclusion of this phase, ESPA OMS should be at a Technology Review Level (TRL) 6.

  DUAL USE COMMERCIALIZATION: Military application: A Phase III effort would produce operational components or subsystems for customers such as MDA, DoD, NASA, and industry users. At the conclusion of this phase, ESPA OMS will be at TRL 8 or 9. Commercial application: A successful demonstration will greatly increase the utility of ESPA-derived launch opportunities and will increase demand of ESPA OMS systems for use by MDA, DoD, NASA and commercial industry.

  References:  1. Goodwin, J. S. and P. Wegner, "Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter: Helping Technology get to Space," AIAA Space 2001 ¡V Conference and Exposition, AIAA Paper 2001-4701, August 2001. 2. Cohen, D., G. Spanjers, J. Winter, G. Ginet, B. Dichter, M. Tolliver, A. Adler, and J. Guarnieri, "MEO Wave-Particle Interaction, Space Weather, and Environmental Effects Payloads on AFRL's Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX)," AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, AIAA Paper 2006-475, January 2006.

Keywords:  ESPA, propulsion, low-cost, small satellites

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