July 2024 | News

Work Continues to Develop Tritium-Based Propulsion System for Small Satellites

City Labs was recently awarded an AFWERX SBIR Phase II contract in support of our project: “Nuclear Beta Emitter Ion Engine for Small Satellites.” This significant achievement builds upon our successful Phase I contract work developing a proof of concept for a novel and highly efficient tritium-based propulsion system for small satellites. The project continues our collaboration with Professor John Foster at the University of Michigan, blending City Labs’ expertise in tritium power with Dr. Foster’s cutting-edge plasma propulsion research.

This project leverages tritium’s unique properties to provide a reliable and long-term power source that overcomes the limitations of traditional satellite propulsion systems. Through this work, City Labs aims to further develop a novel ion engine that acts as a continuous energy supply capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of space, such as extreme temperatures, radiation, and vibrations. This contract is part of a broader spectrum of pioneering projects at City Labs that seek to develop tritium-powered solutions for space technology, including a recent NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts award for developing autonomous tritium micropowered sensors to operate on the lunar south pole and a previous SpaceWERX SBIR grant from the Space Force to develop self-powered wireless imaging sensors for small satellites.

These awards underscore City Labs’ commitment to advancing tritium-powered technologies for diverse space applications and highlight that major space agencies are recognizing the benefits of employing tritium in space-based operations, providing a consistent, durable, and long-term power source for missions in even the harshest space environments.

This research is sponsored by AFWERX.