RF PLASMA PROPULSION

A BRIEF HISTORY OF IN-SPACE PROPULSION

ELECTRIC PROPULSION THEORIZED

ELECTRIC PROPULSION THEORIZED

Electric propulsion for space is conceived in the early 1900s. On-orbit propulsion is essential for satellite constellation mission operations, like station-keeping, collision avoidance, and safe end-of-life de-orbiting.

HALL EFFECT THRUSTERS

It’s not until 1960-70s Cold War era space race that one form of electric propulsion, the Hall Effect thruster, is invented and popularized. While Hall Effect thrusters are powerful and efficient, they are also complex to design and manufacture, which translates to high costs and long lead times.

PHASE FOUR’S KEY INNOVATION

Enter Phase Four. Phase Four’s unique propulsion systems rely on our proprietary RF plasma thruster technology, which is designed with simplicity and mass-manufacturability in mind. RF plasma thrusters rise to the challenge of NewSpace megaconstellations.

DESIGN FOR SIMPLICITY

DESIGN FOR SIMPLICITY

Phase Four’s RF plasma thruster operates by using RF to heat propellant into ionized plasma that is then ejected away from a spacecraft by a permanent magnet, creating thrust. This simple design avoids high voltage electronics and eliminate components that are challenging to manufacture in large quantities, like the hollow cathode. These innovations allow Phase Four to achieve a 75% reduction in lead time and materials cost compared to leading Hall thrusters.

MAXWELL IS LAUNCHED

MAXWELL IS LAUNCHED

Phase Four launches Maxwell, the world’s first turn-key propulsion solution for small satellites. Maxwell is designed with ease of integration and operation in mind. Available at a cost-effective price point, it includes a complete propellant management system and an RF plasma thruster.

FUEL AGNOSTICISM

FUEL AGNOSTICISM

RF plasma thrusters can heat any neutral gas into an ionized plasma that is pushed out of a spacecraft with a permanent magnet, the same way a physical nozzle directs propellant in a chemical engine. Phase Four begins testing with alternate propellants, including water. Water propellant is safe, simple, and widely available–and eliminates the need for a high pressure storage vessel.

PUBLICATIONS

We love to push boundaries and share our learnings. Read more about Phase Four’s RF plasma thruster performance: