Busek’s BIT-I RF ion thruster is an ultra-compact, high-performance ion propulsion device designed with nano-satellite users in mind. Weighing just 53 grams and having a size close to a U.S. quarter, the BIT-I thruster can produce 105 PN thrust and 2250 second ISP with just IOW of power. When higher power is available, the thruster’s performance can easily exceed 200 PN thrust and 3500 second lsp.
As with other Busek RF ion thrusters, BIT-I plasma (ICP) employs inductively coupled discharge to generate its ion source. The utilization of RF discharge eliminates the need for internal hot cathode and thus increases overall lifetime while enabling extreme miniaturization. Thruster life is dominated by grid erosion, which by simulation exceeds 20,000 hours. BIT-I by default is paired with Busek’s subminiature hollow cathode BHC-50E for ion beam neutralization.
In addition to its small size and low power, BIT-I is designed to be compatible with the solid-storable propellant iodine. Such unique properties make the BIT-I system extremely favorable for nano-satellites such as CubeSats, where volume and mass are highly constrained. Miniaturized, microcontroller- based Power Processing Unit (PPIJ) for BIT-I also exists in the CubeSat form factor. The P PU contains an innovative RF generator/amplifier board with integrated load power sensor and automatic frequency matching. Based on a modified Class E RF amplifier topology, the RF board has a proven 80% DC-to-RF power conversion efficiency for BIT-I operation.