The AIS-ILIS1 Ionic Liquid Ion Source Electrospray Thruster represents the first generation of micro-ion propulsion development at AIS. 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 to be successfully designed, built, and fired in the field yet.

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. The first round of testing has been completed for the AIS-ILIS1, which has paved the road for the next generation AIS-ILIS2 development.



  • Thruster Type: Macro-scale bulk-emission ionic liquid ion source (ILIS)
  • Fuel: EMI-BF4
  • Max Power Draw: <0.1W
  • Thrust: 3uN
  • ISP: >4500s
  • Size: 45mm x 45mm x 16mm
  • Total Thruster Mass: 40g
  • Fuel Capacity: 1g
  • Test Readiness Level (TRL): 5-6
  • Status: OBSOLETE


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 initial 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
  • 07/21/2020 – Second fueling and ignition test of the ILIS1 completed
  • 08/04/2020 – Enhanced thruster housing design revealed
  • 08/05/2020 – Enhanced extractor design revealed
  • 08/06/2020 – Enhanced extractor field simulations analysis complete
  • 08/07/2020 – First concept model of the AIS-ILIS1 Cubesat cluster revealed
  • 08/10/2020 – V6 boards for the ILIS1 arrived from OSHPark
  • 08/12/2020 – Enhanced extractors arrived from OSHCut
  • 08/14/2020 – Old 3D printed Ultem housing modified for enhanced design
  • 08/15/2020 – Enhanced extractor underwent post-processing clean-up and polishing to improve quality
  • 08/16/2020 – Third fueling and ignition test of the ILIS1 completed
  • 08/17/2020 – Fourth ignition test of the ILIS1 completed
  • 08/18/2020 – Fifth ignition test of the ILIS1 completed
  • 08/21/2020 – Sixth ignition test of the ILIS1 completed. >1hr stable operation achieved, first time multi-site bulk emission achieved. 5uA of peak current at 5kV, more than doubling the prior run of 2uA max, rough thrust of 0.4uN and an ISP of 4320s.
  • 10/05/2020 – Design revealed for the new shield electrode and housing to mitigate liquid creep failure.
  • 10/09/2020 – New shield electrode and housing arrived for the ILIS1.
  • 10/14/2020 – Seventh ignition test of the ILIS1 completed. 40uA of peak current at 5.8kV, at 3uN of thrust and >4500s ISP. No liquid creep failure during the test observed, validating the shield electrode and new housing design.
  • 12/24/2020 – Open source hardware files for the ILIS1 officially released. AS OF THIS DATE, THE ILIS1 DESIGN IS NOW OBSOLETE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF THE AIS-ILIS SERIES DEVELOPMENTS.
  • 07/17/2021 – AIS-ILIS1 was run for its 8th ignition test using a modified single spike emitter with new shim shield and Somos PerFORM housing, achieving the highest output to date with 70uA of measured beam current, equating to about 5uN of thrust.
  • 11/02/2021 – Open source hardware files for the ILIS1 V2 officially released. AS OF THIS DATE, THE ILIS1 DESIGN IS OBSOLETE.

  • Thruster Type: Ionic Liquid Electrospray
  • Satellite Class: Cubesat and PocketQube
  • Fuel: EMI-BF4
  • Status: Obsolete