Gamero-Castaño Wins Funding to Create Propulsion System for Small Satellites

Manuel Gamero-Castaño wins proof-of-product grant to support his research to develop an electrospray propulsion system for small satellites.

March 11, 2024 - Manuel Gamero-Castaño is creating a novel propulsion system that would boost the use and efficiency of small satellites.

Mini satellites are transforming the space sector by creating new possibilities for scientific and business ventures. The compact, agile spacecrafts are able to conduct numerous missions and perform navigation, remote sensing, research and more. They also have lower development and launch costs than their larger counterparts and can rapidly deploy and operate in large constellations. One major problem impeding their use, however, is the lack of efficient propulsion systems. Small satellites require on-board propulsion technology for orbit insertion, maneuvering, maintenance and returning to base.

Manuel Gamero-Castaño and his research group are working on a high-fidelity electrospray propulsion system that would be perfect for small satellites. They recently won a Proof of Product (PoP) grant of $64,251 from UCI Beall Applied Innovation. PoP grants help accelerate the pathway to market for promising UCI discoveries.

“Electrospray propulsion is based on the atomization of a liquid propellant into charged droplets and their electrostatic acceleration,” said Gamero-Castaño, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “It is highly efficient at the low power levels available to small satellites.” This, together with the thrust scalability provided by microfabrication techniques, make electrospray thrusters the ideal propulsion solution.      

– Lori Brandt