March 12th, 2020
iFACT (iodine Fed Advanced Cusp field Thruster) project was successfully launched in Friedrichshafen, Germany in January 2020. Funded by the European Commission as part of its Horizon 2020 Programme, the €2M project will run for 24 months.
iFACT aims to further develop iodine as alternative propellant for electric propulsion by creating a European ground test infrastructure, further development of the Advanced Cusp Field Thruster (ACFT) principle, and generating a detailed iodine - material compatibility library.
The unique thruster principle paired with the use of iodine as propellant and a tailored feeding architecture has the potential to significantly change the space sector. The iFACT subsystem enables a serious reduction of subsystem mass, in particular the dry mass required for the propellant feeding along with the cost and volume savings of the propellant itself.
The program will foster the use of iodine for in space propulsion by tackling main questions, marks such as iodine corrosion impacts to the satellite platform through extensive material testing; it further aims to develop an iodine compatible cathode/neutralizer including a dedicated investigation towards calcium aluminate as potential low work function emitter candidate. Due to the creation of an independent European iodine compatible test infrastructure especially tailored for long firing tests, the development of iodine based propulsion systems will be enhanced even for parties that are not participating in the iFACT program directly.
iFACT intends to examine developing variations of EP subsystems besides the main 300 W version. In this content, a 10 W subsystem will be experimentally validated enabling the fast and cost-efficient demonstration of key technologies. Furthermore, a 1000 W iFACT upscaled laboratory model will be tested in addition to the other development lines.
With iFACT, Europe can become the leader with respect to iodine as xenon successor as well as a provider of efficient, but very low-cost electric propulsion subsystems. With this in mind iFACT has the ambition to enable future European small satellite constellations.
The project is coordinated by Airbus Germany and involves 7 partners with different areas of expertise from several European States. The iFACT partners are Airbus France, EASN-TIS (Belgium), University of Southampton (UK), Fraunhofer IKTS (Germany), Aerospazio Technologie (Italy), University of Giessen (Germany) and EnduroSat (Bulgaria).