The AIS-ILIS1 Ionic Liquid Ion Source Electrospray Thruster is the most highly anticipated and advanced electric propulsion system to date at Applied Ion Systems. The ILIS1 offers unprecedented access to advanced ionic liquid electrospray thruster technology for nanosatellites, bringing this state-of-the-art, high-performance technology to a level that is affordable for any nanosatellite team. The ILIS1 is also the first ever PocketQube-compatible ion thruster technology available in the field.

The ILIS1 takes a new approach towards ionic electrospray by utilizing low-cost CNC manufacturing of the emitters as opposed to conventional micromachining technology. Coupled with high-performance 3D printed parts and readily available components, the ILIS1 achieves unparalleled accessibility and cost reduction. Using highly stable, safe, and well characterized EMI-BF4 fuel, with passive capillary feeding, the ILIS1 elimiates the need for any high pressure fuel feed or complex valving requirements.

Ionic electrospray technology is one of the most promising technologies for low power, higher thrust and ISP performance for nanosatellites. Currently, the ILIS1 is expected to have performance in the range of 22uN thrust at no less than 3500s ISP. With a high thrust-to-power ratio of 14uN/W, the ILIS1 opens up station keeping and manuevers for PocketQube satellites in LEO. For Cubesat systems, the ILIS1 is easily clustered to provide high efficiency propulsion performance at unheard of cost for micro-ion thruster technology.

The ILIS1 is currently under development. Contact AIS to discuss pre-order and additional requirements for your nanosatellite propulsion needs.


  • Cost: Starting at $4k
  • Thruster Type: Macro-scale bulk-emission ionic liquid ion source (ILIS)
  • Fuel: EMI-BF4
  • Max Power Draw: 1.6W
  • Thrust: estimated 22uN
  • ISP: estimated >3500s
  • Lifetime: estimated 650 hours at nominal thrust
  • Total Impulse: estimated 51Ns
  • Size: 45mm x 45mm x 25mm
  • Total Thruster Mass: estimated <50g
  • Test Readiness Level (TRL): 2
  • Status: ONGOING


AIS-ILIS1 Ionic Liquid Ion Source Electrospray Thruster Gallery





Micro Propulsion Testing Chamber


  • 10/25/2019 – Very first initial ILIS prototype ideas and discussion presented
  • 10/29/2019 – Research identified for macro-scale CNC machined bulk ILIS emitters
  • 11/08/2019 – First intitial concept for ILIS thruster electronics presented
  • 11/13/2019 – Wide, blunt porous emitter research identified for ILIS
  • 11/22/2019 – Announcing official R&D into ILIS
  • 11/27/2019 – Pico Electronics supply data shared for initial ILIS electronics concept
  • 11/29/2019 – Officially revealed the AIS-ILIS1 concept design
  • 12/07/2019 – Initial performance comparison between micro and macro ILIS
  • 12/17/2019 – Porous glass CNC machining supplier identified
  • 12/20/2019 – First performance projections posted on ILIS comparing power, thrust, altitude, and satellite size for station keeping requirements
  • 01/27/2020 – ILIS1 emitter design revealed. Glass stock shipped to manufacturer
  • 1/29/2020 – Glass blanks arrived for fabrication
  • 02/03/2020 – V1 PCB board design for the ILIS1 revealed
  • 02/10/2020 – V1 boards for the ILIS1 arrived from OSHPark
  • 02/11/2020 – First preliminary testing on ILIS1 V1 electronics
  • 02/14/2020 – Anticipated performance projections for the ILIS1 finalized and revealed – 22uN thrust, >3500s ISP, 14uN/W
  • 02/19/2020 – First switching measurements on the ILIS1 V1 PCB HV+ supply complete
  • 02/28/2020 – ILIS1 test load PCB design revealed
  • 03/07/2020 – ILIS1 test load boards arrived from OSHPark
  • 03/09/2020 – ILIS1 test load boards soldered
  • 03/10/2020 – ILIS1 test load PCB mounted to ILIS1 and confirmed operational
  • 03/23/2020 – ILIS1 electronics failed final qualification with both +/-HV supplies
  • 03/26/2020 – ILIS1 V1 schematic released
  • 03/27/2020 – Electrostatic field simulations using Poisson Superfish for ILIS1 emitter and other macro-ILIS thruster emitter comparisons released
  • 04/07/2020 – ILIS1 V2 electronics prototype failed preliminary qualification. Schematic released
  • 04/20/2020 – First set of ILIS1 porous glass emitters arrived and revealed
  • 05/01/2020 – ILIS1 V4 circuit board using HV relays design revealed and sent in for manufacture
  • 05/02/2020 – ILIS1 prototype circuit with HV relaying switching successfully verified
  • 05/04/2020 – ILIS1 prototype circuit with HV relaying switching successfully run at higher frequency cycles
  • 05/05/2020 – First sets of 3D printed housings for the ILIS1 arrived
  • 05/08/2020 – Laser cut electrodes for the ILIS1 arrived
  • 05/09/2020 – New V4 boards for the ILIS1 arrived
  • 05/11/2020 – ILIS1 V4 switching electronics successfully tested and verified
  • 05/25/2020 – Finished build of the Faraday cup assembly for the ILIS1 testing
  • 05/26/2020 – Benchtop testing and qualification of the Faraday cup assembly with the ILIS1 V4 electronics and HV test load completed.
  • 06/03/2020 – First shipment of EMI-BF4 ionic liquid fuel arrived
  • 06/05/2020 – Successful testing and verification of the ILIS1 in-vacuum fueling station
  • 06/27/2020 – First dry mass weighing of assembled ILIS1
  • 07/04/2020 – First fueling, complete assembly, and ignition test attempt of the ILIS1
  • Cost: Starting at $4k
  • Satellite Class: Nanosatellites
  • Fuel: EMI-BF4
  • Status: Ongoing