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Phase Four selected by U.S. Air Force to adapt Maxwell in-space engine for defense needs

March 17, 2020

Phase Four has been awarded an SBIR Phase I contract by Air Force tech accelerator AFWERX, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Security Innovation Network.

As part of this partnership, beginning in March 2020, Phase Four will work with the Air Force to adapt its revolutionary Maxwell in-space propulsion system to meet the needs of defense users.

Affordable and reliable in-space propulsion is an essential requirement for both commercial and defense next-generation satellite constellations. The Phase Four radio-frequency thruster (RFT) is the first solution to address the cost, manufacturing, and performance needs of high volume satellite constellations. Its simple architecture allows manufacturing to scale up easily, and accommodates a wide range of solid, liquid, and gas propellants. In turn, these features potentially open an even wider range of mission possibilities, including missions in deep space and very low Earth orbit.

Maxwell is a complete in-space propulsion system built on Phase Four's RFT. It includes power electronics, software, and a pressurized storage vessel for 1 kg of xenon, providing over 10,000 Ns of impulse. Maxwell is delivered in an enclosure smaller than 19 cm x 19 cm x 14 cm. Customer deliveries began earlier this month.

"We're proud to be selected by the Air Force as one of its potential technology partners. This is a great example of how Phase Four's commercial success with Maxwell in the private sector can translate to defense needs," said Beau Jarvis, CEO.

"With space now a contested domain, we look forward to collaborating with the Air Force to provide United States space assets with the superior maneuverability and resiliency required to ensure mission success," added Jason Wallace, Vice President of Advanced Development.


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