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Ball Aerospace completing green propellant SmallSat demo operation

WASHINTON – Ball Aerospace confirms that it has effectively flight-tested a green fuel designed by the Air Force and is considering to lower the altitude of the satellite so that it will be capable of deorbiting later in the summer. 

Brian Marotta, the GPIM attitude determination and control manager at Ball Aerospace, confirmed during a previously recorded SmallSat 2020 conference presentation that the Green Propellant Infusion Mission satellite, established that the new fuel, dubbed AF-M315E is likely to be used in flying a spacecraft.

The Air Force Research Laboratory expanded the green fuel, proposed as a substitute for hydrazine. Marotta stated that AF-M315E is a superior performance fuel, which is also not toxic. It signifies that specialists loading the fuel onto a satellite do not require the protecting gear needed for hydrazine that is corrosive.

Marotta confirmed that GPIM has achieved what it was meant to accomplish and added that they flight-qualified recent home propulsion technology on a very skilled and flexible spaceship platform. 

Marotta stated that Ball Aerospace developed satellite on its BCP-100 SmallSat platform, with only five thrusters of Aerojet Rocketdyne. The mission, funded by NASA, was anticipated to initiate in 2016 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, however, postponing with that spaceship’s introduction extended the launch out to June 2019. GPIM stayed in cargo space for about four years while preparing for Falcon Heavy. 

GPIM send-off into a low Earth orbit of 720 kilometers, and carried out three burns, each burn lasted for 6 minutes, to lower to 575 kilometers altitude. Marotta confirmed that Ball Aerospace preferred the maneuver first so GPIM could Deorbit naturally in 25 years during the incident of a malfunction. 

Ball Aerospace carried out a series of propulsive experiments during the initial 13 months since the launch of GPIM. It incorporated a simulated datable analysis where its thrusters were capable of stabilizing the spaceship.

Marotta confirmed that succeeding maneuvers have lessened the altitude of GPIM to about 300 kilometers and will make use of the remainder satellite’s fuel in mid-August to fly down about 180 kilometers, where the atmospheric drag is anticipated to capture the spacecraft in two or four weeks. He added that the remaining flight missions would provide useful data on how the propulsion system functions with age.

GPIM conducts 2 space weather payloads as minor operations for the U.S Defense Department, and the satellite also keeps Defense Department’s Space Object Self tracker.