Plasma Propulsion for Smallsats Launched by Phase Four

Phase Four has introduced Maxwell, the first turnkey plasma propulsion solution for smallsats.

Maxwell combines a complete propellant management system and Phase Four’s proprietary RF (radio frequency) plasma thruster into a compact form factor.

Maxwell expands what’s possible for smallsats and combines simplicity with the powerful performance of complex traditional electric engines. Maxwell eliminates bulky, high voltage components and electrodes, simultaneously reducing cost and removing supply chain barriers that have long plagued traditional satellite engines.

According to the company, Maxwell is the most powerful electric propulsion system of its size, delivering up to 10 mN of thrust and up to 1,400 s of specific impulse, with total impulse of up to 14,000 Ns. Maxwell is ideal for smallsats (20 to 500 kg.) with 300 to 500 W power budgets.

Maxwell is an instant startup propulsion unit with no delays and no need to warm and condition cathodes. Equipped with a flexible interface, Maxwell can finely tune thrust parameters on-orbit to accommodate changing mission needs.

With a full 1 kilogram tank of xenon, Maxwell weighs in at just 8.4 kilograms and takes up a modest volume of 7.5 x 7.3 x 5.3 inches. First deliveries of flight-qualified Maxwell start in 4Q19

Beau Jarvis, Phase Four CEO, said the company believes that customers shouldn’t have to decide between thrust and efficiency when it comes to propulsion. Maxwell provides the best of both worlds, delivering simple plug and play delta-V. Maxwell will enable rapid ROI for LEO smallsat constellations looking for four to six year operational lifetimes.

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