Testing and Characterization of a Miniature Solenoid Valve for a Cold Gas propulsion System of a 1U CubeSat Demonstrator

Diana Carolina Camacho Lopez, University of Texas at El Paso


CubeSat technology, although a young member of the space craft family, has proven to be a multipurpose technology. They have been a gateway for professional companies, universities, high school, and even students at an elementary grade level to go to space. As a space craft they offer an affordable alternative to explore space and test new innovative technologies. This not only translate financially but is also evident in the amount of time in which they are designed, tested and built. The CubeSats geometry has allowed it to hitch a ride on launch vehicle where use of available real estate is maximized. However, pioneering a new field of technology does come with its setbacks. For example, the future for these vehicles would considerably be furthered by the implementation of a propulsion system. As mentioned by K. LaBel and M.Sampson, lack of testing causes a vulnerability for these spacecrafts. Also, subsystems such as those required by propulsion systems are not very seen very kindly, this at time causes delays in their launch dates. As mentioned before, CubeSats as a new technology have sparked an interest not only for university-based research but also upcoming companies. The University of Texas at El Paso research facility Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR), has delved into this new technology and began expanding its area of research to these small but mighty spacecraft’s. A launched in late 2019 onboard a Grumman Antares rocket held Orbital Factory II, a 1U CubeSat, which among its varies systems contains an experimental payload of a 3D printed 3D printer as well as communications systems to downlink information during its mission. However, this CubeSat does not contain a propulsion system. A second CubeSat carried out in the cSETR project known as the Cold Gas Demonstrator is a 1U CubeSat with a cold gas propulsion system. This thesis is focused on the testing and characterization of the Marshal Space Flight Center Solenoid Valve. This project is in collaboration with NASA White Sands Test Facility, in which a 1U CubeSat will be delivered to the WSTF Magnetic Levitation team. The 1U CubeSat will be utilized to support WSTFs efforts in a proof of concept for their Magnetic Levitation Table (Mag. Lev). The objective of the Mag. Lev team is geared toward aiding the advancement of CubeSat Technology and aid in the testing of CubeSat propulsion systems. The Cold Gas Demonstrator team has been tasked with designing and testing a 1U CubeSat that will utilize a cold gas system with R-134a as its propellant. Initial testing will be carried out with nitrogen gas (N_2) in order to observe and comply with safety regulations from the University Environmental Health and Safety Department. This testing is geared toward characterizing the solenoid valves used to interface with the thrusters. The testing consists of two portions on of which will identify required values to meet required pressure in tank in delivery system. The second portion will test electrical aspects of the valve to optimize its use and integration into a 1U CubeSat. Primary test allowed the Cold Gas team to identify that a use of 12V for the spike voltage and time of 3.8ms would suffice for the pressure test. It has also been found that having a duty cycle of 50% with an open time of 20 seconds did not cause the valve to become excessively hot. There was only a temperature change of about 2°F.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering|Mechanical engineering|Electromagnetics

Recommended Citation

Camacho Lopez, Diana Carolina, "Testing and Characterization of a Miniature Solenoid Valve for a Cold Gas propulsion System of a 1U CubeSat Demonstrator" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI27670743.