July 2023 | News

City Labs Secures Contract With Air Force to Develop Advanced Nuclear Ion Engine for Small Satellites

City Labs unveils plans for a tritium-powered propulsion system to redefine space travel.

Miami, FL, July 30, 2023—City Labs, the sole manufacturer of commercial tritium-based power sources, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a new contract by the United States Air Force under the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program. This contract aims to develop a groundbreaking radioisotope ion engine to revolutionize the potential of small satellites.

Although small satellites presently offer a lower cost and greater flexibility compared to larger satellites, their limited power and lack of propulsion pose constraints on mission duration, significantly restricting overall mission potential. To overcome these challenges, City Labs and its collaborators are combining their betavoltaics and plasma propulsion expertise to develop a first-of-its-kind, low-cost radioisotope-based ion engine.

“We are thrilled to embark on this groundbreaking project,” said Dr. Peter Cabauy, CEO and Founder of City Labs. “This contract offers us the opportunity to leverage our tritium-based power sources to develop a truly innovative solution that enhances the capabilities of small satellites. Our team is committed to pushing the boundaries of propulsion technology, and we are eager to share our results with the world.”

This innovative engine concept employs a high energy density nuclear beta-emitter for ion propulsion, offering a highly efficient and low-power solution for small satellites. This technology has the potential to achieve mission lifetimes of five+ years, significantly expanding the capabilities of small satellites.

Phase I of the project will explore the feasibility of using tritium as the beta source and will culminate in a fully developed model design of the radioisotope-based ion engine.

This contract is another major milestone in City Labs’ ongoing commitment to delivering groundbreaking solutions that shape the future of space exploration.

For more information about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, visit https://www.sbir.gov/about.

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. Learn more about City Labs at https://citylabs.net/.

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.