Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM)
The NASA Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) seeks to demonstrate and test the capabilities of a high-performance, non-toxic, “green” fuel on orbit. This the first time the nation will use a spacecraft to test green propellant technology.
The fuel and its accompanying technology offer many advantages for future satellites, including longer mission durations, additional maneuverability, increased payload space, and simplified launch processing.
The propellant for this mission is a Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate (HAN) fuel/oxidizer blend, or AF-M315E. Developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), it offers nearly 50 percent higher performance for a given propellant tank volume compared to a conventional hydrazine system. This new, green propellant is less harmful to the environment, increases fuel efficiency, and diminishes operational hazards.
The Ball team will develop and fly the GPIM to demonstrate the new fuel and an integrated propulsion system that uses green propellant in space. Once on-orbit, the team will characterize the green fuel’s performance using Ball Aerospace-developed software. Planned on-orbit maneuvers include attitude control demonstrations, spacecraft pointing and hold, thruster performance characterization and mapping, inclination change and orbit lowering.
The GPIM payload will fly aboard the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) 100 spacecraft bus. The Ball Aerospace-built BCP 100 provides standard payload interfaces and streamlined procedures for short lead-time and affordable access to space. The BCP 100 is ideally suited for scientific, technology development, and risk reduction payloads like the GPIM.
The GPIM will be developed over three years and is expected to launch in 2016.
Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for GPIM. A principal investigator from Ball Aerospace will lead the demonstration of the alternative fuel for future space vehicles. GPIM team co-investigators include the Aerojet Corporation, NASA Glenn Research Center, and the U.S. AFRL at Edwards Air Force Base, with additional mission support from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Kirtland Air Force Base and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
In addition to the promise of higher performance for future satellites, the fuel’s exceptional volumetric storage properties is also being examined for military uses such as missile launches and auxiliary power units that currently use hydrazine.