Pushing forward on the AIS-ILIS1 ionic liquid electrospray thruster for PocketQubes, I am pleased to finally reveal the first concept model of the first ever AIS-ILIS ionic liquid electrospray cluster for Cubesats! This marks a new push into ultra-low cost, openly developed advanced ion propulsion for Cubesats. Details below!
Each PocketQube compatible module is individually controlled, with a central processing unit for the rear board, allowing for thrust vectoring capabilities, monitoring, and control. Currently, the cluster is shown with x4 of the new V6 design of the AIS-ILIS1 ionic liquid electrospray thruster.
At 1.6W max power per module the cluster requires only 6.4W total power. Once optimized to 20uN per module, the cluster is expected to deliver up to 80uN total thrust for a thrust/power ratio of 12.5uN/W. Based on prior performance estimates of the ILIS1 module, ISP is expected to be 3000s or greater operating in pure ionic emission mode.
The cluster itself is 91x91x27mm, for less than 0.3U total volume. With each ILIS1 block at around 40g wet mass, holding 1g of passively fed ionic liquid propellant for a total of 4g, the expected total mass is anticipated at around 200g. Fuel capacity can be doubled at a cost of only 4mm extra depth. At 50% fuel utilization with standard fuel capacity, total impulse is 58 Ns.
Everything still relies on me achieving stable operation and getting close to my target of 20uN per module as well as improving lifetime. However, current ILIS thrusters on the market from competitors in this class have set the bar to very attainable levels of less than 200 hours of operation. With the current anticipated specs and radically reduced cost, the AIS-ILIS1 Cubesat Cluster will be the most competitive ionic liquid electrospray thruster on the market yet, and scalable from large Cubesat systems down to PocketQube class satellites, making it the most versatile ILIS thruster series out there yet.
My hopes are to work closely and openly with the Cubesat community with complete transparency to continue advancing propulsion to meet their needs, and provide truly accessible propulsion that any team can afford. The ILIS1 cluster represents a new push towards ultra-low cost performance ion propulsion for Cubesats!