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 set out to 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 traditional hydrazine system. This could give future satellites longer mission durations, more maneuverability, increased payload space and easier launch processing.

Developed over three years, GPIM launched on June 25, 2019 and was commissioned on orbit three days later. It was the first time the nation used a spacecraft to test green propellant technology.

In addition to its use in satellites, the fuel’s exceptional storage properties are being examined for CubeSats, lunar exploration, deep space probes and military applications.

In just a little over a year since launch, GPIM successfully proved the new propellant and propulsion system worked as intended. NASA announced on October 20, 2020 that the small spacecraft had safely re-entered Earth’s atmosphere after a series of deorbit burns.
Engineer working GPIM spacecraft bus
An engineer works to assemble the GPIM spacecraft bus.

What we’re doing

Prime contractor, small satellite provider, principal investigator

We built the small satellite spacecraft bus, integrated and tested the payloads and propulsion system, and provided launch and flight support. While on-orbit, our team characterized the green fuel’s performance using Ball-developed software.

The GPIM payload flew aboard a Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) small spacecraft bus that was built in just 46 days. About the size of a mini refrigerator, the BCP-Small satellite provides standard payload interfaces and streamlined procedures, allowing rapid and affordable access to space. 

Principal Investigator, Christopher McLean, staff consultant at Ball Aerospace, led a team of co-investigators including 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.


Share the science and technology of GPIM!

Paper models, teacher lesson plans and more!

Take advantage of these materials to share the science and technology with those around you!

Download this easy paper model kit and make your own GPIM spacecraft.
Or, try your hand at making this detailed paper model kit of GPIM!

Contact Ball

Ask us about our small sats for tech demo missions