DARPA seeks propulsion tech

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency presolicitation notice

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced late last week it is looking for new technologies in microelectric propulsion to assist in the development of smaller and more flexible spacecraft and satellites.

In a presolicitation notice released Aug. 15, DARPA said the increased expansion into space requires a more efficient and cost-effective means of propulsion.

"Space is being used to fulfill an ever-increasing range of both civilian and military needs," the DARPA notice reads. "The wide range of potential missions of interest places considerable burden upon the spacecraft designer to develop and field increasingly high performance and flexible subsystems, including propulsion systems."

The aim of the program is to "enable a new generation of fast, long-lived, highly flexible, and highly maneuverable 1-100 kg.-class satellites/spacecraft by demonstrating flexible, light-weight, high-efficiency, scalable micro-propulsion systems."

The program has three 12-month phases, with the latter two phases structured as optional. Interested participants have until Nov. 3 to submit proposals.

A goal of the program is to design a lightweight thruster that can vary its impulse using a single propellant.

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