Phase Four Receives USAF AFWERX Contract for Maxwell Propulsion System Adaptation

Phase Four has been awarded an SBIR Phase I contract by U.S. Air Force (USAF) tech accelerator AFWERX, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the National Security Innovation Network.

As part of this partnership, beginning in March 2020, Phase Four will work with the USAF to adapt their Maxwell in-space propulsion system to meet the needs of defense users.

Affordable and reliable in-space propulsion is an essential requirement for both commercial and defense next-generation satellite constellations. The Phase Four radio-frequency thruster (RFT) is the first solution to address the cost, manufacturing, and performance needs of high volume satellite constellations. RFT’s simple architecture allows manufacturing to scale up easily and accommodates a wide range of solid, liquid, and gas propellants. In turn, these features potentially open an even wider range of mission possibilities, including missions in deep space and very low Earth orbit.

Phase Four’s Maxwell is a turn-key electric propulsion solution for next generation smallsats and includes the company’s proprietary RF thruster, power electronics, 1 kg. xenon propellant tank (and control system), and flight software.

Maxwell is a complete in-space propulsion system built on Phase Four’s RFT. The system includes power electronics, software, and a pressurized storage vessel for 1 kg. of xenon, providing more than 10,000 Ns of impulse. Maxwell is delivered in an enclosure smaller than 19x19x 14 cm. Customer deliveries began earlier this month.

CEO Beau Jarvis said the firm is proud to have been selected by the U.S. Air Force as one of their potential technology partners. This is a great example of how Phase Four’s commercial success with Maxwell in the private sector can translate to defense needs.

Jason Wallace, VP of Advanced Development for the company, stated that with space now a contested domain, the firm looks forward to collaborating with the U.S. Air Force to provide United States space assets with the superior maneuverability and resiliency required to ensure mission success.

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