Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM)

Non-toxic, green fuel on orbit

Spacecraft propellant is going green. To reduce the environmental and safety risks posed by conventional hydrazine rocket fuel, NASA’s GPIM will demonstrate a new high-performance, non-toxic spacecraft propulsion fuel on-orbit.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) developed the new propellant, a hydroxyl ammonium nitrate fuel/oxidizer blend. Not only is the green fuel safer, it is also more fuel efficient and offers nearly 50 percent higher performance than a hydrazine system. This could give future satellites longer mission durations, more maneuverability, increased payload space and easier launch processing. 

Developed over three years, GPIM is expected to launch in 2017. This will be the first time the nation will use a spacecraft to test green propellant technology. 

In addition to its use in satellites, the fuel’s exceptional storage properties are being examined for military uses like missile launches and auxiliary power units. 
Engineer working GPIM spacecraft bus
An engineer works to assemble the GPIM spacecraft bus.

What we’re doing

Principal investigator, prime contractor

We’re building the spacecraft bus, integrating and testing the payloads and propulsion system, and providing launch and flight support. Once on-orbit, our team will characterize the green fuel’s performance using Ball -developed software.

The GPIM payload will fly aboard the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) 100 spacecraft bus. About the size of a mini refrigerator, the BCP 100 provides standard payload interfaces and streamlined procedures, allowing rapid and affordable access to space. 

What does a future look like with green propellant? A principal investigator from Ball plans to find out, leading the way in demonstrating the use of alternative fuel for future space vehicles.

GPIM team co-investigators include the Aerojet Rocketdyne, 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.

Contact Ball

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