July 2024 | Press Release

City Labs Awarded AFWERX SBIR Phase II Contract for Radioisotope Powered Ion Engine Development

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Phase II Ion Engine

Miami, FL, July 8th, 2024 – City Labs is thrilled to announce that it has been selected by AFWERX for a $1,250,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract. This award further supports the novel development of an advanced radioisotope-powered ion engine designed for small satellites. Building on the successful proof-of-concept City Labs established in the previously awarded Phase I contract, this Phase II effort aims to address critical propulsion challenges for the U.S. Department of the Air Force and lay the groundwork for producing a fully operational engine in the future that is capable of supporting missions lasting over five years.

“We are honored to receive this Phase II SBIR award from AFWERX,” said Dr. Peter Cabauy, CEO and Founder of City Labs. “This project allows us to further develop our groundbreaking tritium-powered ion engine technology. By combining our expertise in betavoltaics with our collaborators at the University of Michigan’s knowledge in plasma propulsion, we are creating a solution that significantly enhances the capabilities of small satellites. We look forward to delivering a propulsion system that will redefine satellite missions for the Air Force and beyond.”

As satellite technology advances, the need for efficient, long-lasting propulsion systems is becoming increasingly critical. While traditional propulsion methods for small satellites often lack sufficient thrust and are power-intensive, City Labs’ ion engine aims to address these challenges using tritium, a hydrogen radioisotope, to provide a continuous energy source to enable propulsion. This innovation promises to extend satellite mission lifetimes, reduce operational costs, and enable more complex missions.

About City Labs:

City Labs, Inc. is a Florida-based corporation specializing in designing, developing, and manufacturing ultra-low power, long-life (20+ years) tritium-powered nuclear batteries. These batteries are primarily used to power microelectronics, sensors, and other devices employed in the aerospace, defense, medical, and industrial sectors. City Labs has a regulatory-licensed R&D/manufacturing facility located in Miami, Florida. For more information, visit citylabs.net.

About AFRL:

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit afresearchlab.com.


As the innovation arm of the DAF and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFWERX brings cutting-edge American ingenuity from small businesses and start-ups to address the most pressing challenges of the DAF. AFWERX employs approximately 325 military, civilian and contractor personnel at six hubs and sites executing an annual $1.4 billion budget. Since 2019, AFWERX has executed 4,697 new contracts worth more than $2.6 billion to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability. For more information, visit afwerx.com.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact:

Johann Hernandez
305-909-7593 x108

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.