AST is technology leader in high performant and miniaturized flow control components and units for space applications. Our devices use fluid SMD technology to reduce system size and mass and to allow series production. Key feature of fluid SMD is the significant reduced number of welds and a quality optimized manufacturing process. All remaining welding joints are done in fully automized electron beam welding machines, providing a maximum of quality at a minimum of cost. The design for series production is unique in space business and yields significant cost savings at larger quantities as required by upcoming LEO constellations.
All AST products use components of European origin. No foreign export restrictions (e.g. ITAR) apply. This allows our customers to reduce administrative overhead and to secure their market shares.
Flow Control Units
Flow Control Units (FCU) are used to adjust the xenon gas flow to an electric propulsion system using ion engines or plasma thrusters.
AST offers a familiy of miniaturized flow control units (µFCU) with different flow capabilities ranging from 0.1 mg/s F.S. for micro thruster up to 10 mg/s F.S. for high power HETs. The flow range is determined by internal passive flow resistors which allows an easy adaption to individual specifications.
The standard miniaturized flow control unit design provides two independently controlled flow channels. The control can be done in open loop or closed loop to a thruster parameter like the anode current. A cost optimized, high pressure FCU for large LEO constellations is under development.
The Electronic Pressure Regulator (EPR) is under development within a FP7 funded project. The regulator weighs less than 700 grams (w/o electronics) for a full functional fluid block with tripple barrier against propellant loss. Target application are electric propulsion systems with xenon flow rates of up to 400 mg/s to supply the EP system and xenon cold gas thrusters. With an inlet pressure of up to 300 bar, the EPR is ready for all furture high pressure xenon tank developments.
The EPR has reached EM level. An upgraded EQM will be envrionmentally tested within 2016.
The AST cold gas thruster has been developed for the FORMOSAT 5 mission. It provides a nominal thrust of 42mN at 69s specific impulse (1.5 bar nitrogen). A large range of linear control by the inlet pressure has been demonstrate from 20mN to 150 mN with the same thruster.
The CGT has been qualified in 2014. The final FM batch has been delivered and integrated. FORMOSAT 5 now waits for its launch in 2016.
A xenon version is available and ready for a delta qualification on customer request.
AST has a remarkable expertise in development of ground support equipment ranging from special measurement equipment like thrust balances to the design of large testfacilities.
AST has long term experience with measurement equipment for electric propulsion systems. One of the key diagnostic elements is a direct measurement thrust balance. Several models for different thruster sizes rangeing from 2 kg to 40 kg are available. Two balances are used at the DLR Göttingen for the evaluation of large ion thrusters and small chemical propulsion systems.
The DLR Göttingen has been supported by setting up its new electric propulsion test laboratory at Göttingen. We designed the lab, the vacuum chamber with support equipment and the infrastructure. The project started by a definition phase to define the goals of the DLR and has been closed out with the inaugural operation of an ion source inside the vacuum chamber.
AST developed and manufactured an innovative prototype of a beam target. The water cooled target is able to dissipate an ion beam of more than 50 kW. It has been designed for the large STG-ET space simulator at DLR Göttingen. The target with a dimater of 4.75m separated in several wings. For each wing the cone and tilt angle can be individually adjusted to investigate the integration of the ion beam with the test facility.