EASN newsletter

Delve into the cutting-edge advancements of the European Aviation & Space community.

iodine Fed Advanced Cusp Field Thruster for Mid-Power

In a significant stride towards revolutionizing satellite propulsion, iFACT-MP (iodine Fed Advanced Cusp Field Thruster for Mid-Power) project, under the coordination of AIRBUS Defence and Space GmbH, officially commenced on January 1st, 2024. Over the upcoming 24 months, the iFACT-MP initiative is set to redefine the space exploration landscape, driven by a commitment to cutting-edge, efficient, and sustainable technology. Placing a strong emphasis on competitiveness as a pivotal objective, iFACT-MP communications will echo the dedication to advancing technologies. These efforts not only propel the initiative into a new era of innovation but also firmly establish it as a formidable force in the competitive space area.

The primary goal of iFACT-MP is concise yet impactful: to develop a 3-5 kW iodine-fed electric propulsion subsystem, setting the stage for a new era in space travel. A collaborative effort with key players across Europe, this project is set to push the boundaries of innovation. Key objectives include upscaling the Advanced Cusp Field Thruster (ACFT) to the designated power range, collaborating with Fraunhofer IKTS for the development of an iodine-fed hollow cathode, and constructing a fluidic chain led by Airbus Toulouse. This comprehensive chain incorporates a heated tank, flow control, piping, and an optical iodine flow sensor developed by the University of Pisa. For the final coupling and endurance tests, Aerospazio is developing and building the largest iodine compatible test facility in Europe, capable of testing in the targeted power range.

Iodine takes center stage as the propellant of choice. Not only cost-effective and sustainable due to the low CO2 footprint in its purification, but iodine also matches xenon's performance, offering operational advantages and aligning seamlessly with Europe's strategic goal of reducing dependence on external gas sources.

This consortium, comprising Airbus teams from Friedrichshafen, Toulouse, and Elancourt, alongside Aerospazio, Fraunhofer IKTS, University of Pisa, and EASN-TIS, forms a cohesive team committed to propelling the European space industry into a new era of innovation. Through the iFACT-MP project, this collaborative effort expands Europe’s leadership in iodine electric propulsion, reinforcing our dedication to advancing space exploration and technology.

As iFACT-MP unfolds its transformative journey, anticipate regular updates on this groundbreaking endeavor that is reshaping the future of space exploration!

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Funded by the European Union under GA No 101134963. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or HADEA. Neither the European Union nor HADEA can be held responsible for them.