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IET Satcom 2018

Phase Four signs contract with NASA to vet its propulsion system for upcoming small satellite missions

(24 May 2018 - Phase Four) Phase Four, a provider of electric radio frequency (RF) thrusters for in-space propulsion, today announced that NASA has purchased one of Phase Four's second-generation RF thrusters to vet its capabilities for small satellite propulsion.

The Phase Four thruster is part of an Integrated Propulsion Assembly (IPA) that contains: propellant storage and management, engine control electronics, power processing, and a thruster in one integrated solution. NASA will utilize the P4 propulsion solution to gain operational flight experience that demonstrates Phase Four's capability to meet NASA's upcoming small satellite mission goals. The IPA will be delivered to NASA in 2019.

"Propulsion systems are one of the most challenging and expensive components in a satellite, so we're excited by the potential to bring a cost-effective solution to NASA's upcoming SmallSat missions," said Jason Wallace, VP of Operations at Phase Four and Program Manager for this NASA contract. "We look forward to working closely with NASA to field the next generation of the Phase Four thruster."

Based in El Segundo, CA, Phase Four builds an electrode-less RF thruster, the smallest plasma propulsion system available, which can be scaled for Cube- and SmallSat constellation satellites to larger, bus-sized satellites. Released on April 16, performance test results by The Aerospace Corporation reveal that Phase Four's RF thrusters measured on-par with today's costly state-of-the-art Hall Effect Thrusters (HET).

"This is a milestone for us and for the industry as it underscores NASA's commitment to small satellites as a serious platform for space exploration and scientific research," said Simon Halpern, Founder and CEO of Phase Four. "Our team continues to build products that are shaping the future of space and exploration, and with this contract, we will provide small satellites with the kind of affordable in-space mobility that will enable NASA to conduct a wider range of missions than currently possible."

About Phase Four

Based in El Segundo, California, Phase Four is enabling the exponential growth of satellite constellations by solving the satellite's costliest problem, the propulsion system. The company's electrode-less RF thruster is the smallest plasma propulsion system available today, and can be scaled for use from CubeSat to SmallSat to school bus-sized satellites. By eliminating the most common failure points in incumbent technologies - electrodes, high-voltage electronics, and complex fabrication - Phase Four has built a system that is reliable and offers high-performance with baked-in manufacturability. Designed with tomorrow's satellites and constellations in mind, the P4 RF thruster brings SmallSat the same performance levels of large satellites, in a simpler form factor. Phase Four is proof that high performance can come in small packages.