AASC’s Metal Plasma Thruster

Power Processing Unit (PPU) for Satellite Propulsion

Alameda Applied Sciences Corporation (AASC) manufactures Metal Plasma Thrusters (MPT) to help small vehicles maneuver in space. These thrusters generate a low voltage (<45V) arc, which ablates and ionizes a a small fraction of a solid metal puck on each pulse, ejecting  the plasma into the vacuum of space and creating thrust for the vehicle. Unlike other satellite thrusters, this method of propulsion has no moving parts, fluid tanks or valves, making it extremely compact and reliable. 

Second Order Effects (SOE) designed a Power Processing Unit (PPU) for AASC’s MPT thruster. This MPT thruster is now marketed as the Xantus thruster by Benchmark Space Systems. The PPU uses an isolated DC-DC Converter to power and charge the circuitry that creates the pulsed arc discharge.  In partnership with AASC, SOE worked through tight form factor constraints for power electronics, thermal management, fault conditions, and reliability of components for space.

Metal plasma thruster - cube sat thruster - electric propulsion
AASC’s MPT-X 6-puck engine firing under test at 1 pulse/second
  • What brought SOE: Idea
  • Industry: Space
  • Years Active: 2021