AIAA Space Forum paper on Pluto mission is live

Sadly, the AIAA Space Forum in Orlando, FL was canceled due to hurricane Irma. So, we didn’t get to present our paper on our DFD mission to Pluto. AIAA has, however, published all the forum papers and is providing free access for a few months in lieu of the actual conference. This means anyone can download it!

Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander paper:

Open access to the AIAA Space Forum technical program:


PPPL’s Young Women’s Conference

Princeton Satellite Systems had a booth at the PPPL’s Young Women’s Conference at Princeton University. Stephanie Thomas and Gary Pajer talked with students about our work in aerospace and energy.


Our booth featured a CubeSat frame designed by our mechanical engineers, a simulation of a lunar lander which could be controlled via a joystick, a copy of our new textbook MATLAB Recipes, and a Lego model of our Space Rapid Transit space plane.

The girls were divided into three large groups that rotated through the various attractions available to them, so every hour or so the the attendees changed.   And every hour or so we had a fresh cohort of faces to meet.   Many of the girls  were very interested in what we are doing, and asked insightful questions.  For example, one girl asked “What happens when a satellite loses track of where it is?   Does it just get lost?”   Of course, that’s an important issue, one that we at PSS have spent considerable time addressing.

Some girls were very interested to learn about tiny CubeSats (“This isn’t a model, this is the actual size of the satellite!”), and still others were interested in horizontal launch possibilities as shown by the Lego model – i.e. most rockets launch vertically, but this could take off at any airport. Both of these are examples of systems that we regularly model using our commercial software packages.

For more information see the 2016 Young Womens’ Conference

Stofiel Aerospace and Princeton Satellite Systems at CES

Stofiel Aerospace LLC had a display at the Consumer Electronics Show. They invited Princeton Satellite Systems to display its products on their table. The booth is shown in the following picture. You can see Stofiel’s rockets.


Here is a closeup showing our 3U CubeSat with a camera mounted in one of the bays.

Members of the Stofiel team:


More members of the Stofiel team:


Stofiel Aerospace LLC is an aerospace solutions company created by five U.S. military veterans from Cleveland, Ohio. Stofiel Aerospace LLC is currently developing a portable micro/nano-satellite launch system. Their revolutionary system drastically reduces the wait time for small payloads to reach low Earth orbit to days, not years. By utilizing solid rocket motors and Hydrogen-filled balloons, their system finally offers CubeSat manufacturers and clients the opportunity to be considered a “primary payload” for orbital missions. Currently, they are partnered with the Ohio Aerospace Institute in Cleveland, Ohio and working for further funding to continue development of this industry-changing technology. For inquiries, please contact Jason Beeman, CFO at (440) 994-9035.

2014 International Astronautical Congress

From the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1968. Dr. Heywood Floyd is talking with Elena, a colleague from Russia:

Elena, “Well, I hope that you and your wife can come to the I.A.C conference in June.”
Floyd, “We’re trying to get there. I hope we can.”

I was able to attend the IAC conference in 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I presented two papers:

“Direct Fusion Drive for a Human Mars Orbital Mission”


“Space Rapid Transit – A Two Stage to Orbit Fully Reusable Launch Vehicle”.


2001: A Space Odyssey was the “theme” for my two papers. I had a photo of the Discovery II spacecraft in my DFD talk and an image from an online simulator of the full Orion III launch vehicle in my SRT talk. Both papers were well received. I got a good question from an engineer from Reaction Engines Limited about separation. We have done some separation simulations but have not testing our separation control mode in depth. He noted that the D-21 program, and example of high speed separation I gave, was not really successful.

When I wasn’t in my sessions, I spent my time in the exhibits hall talking with the representatives at the booths, handing out business cards and flyers about Princeton Satellite Systems. Some of our customers, including KARI from Korea and the Canadian Space Agency, had exhibits.

I spoke at length with Astrobotics, a company that plans to land a rover on the moon. They were founded by a professor from Carnegie Mellon. I suggested that our flight control experience could be of value to them. Their work shows the feasibility of helium-3 mining on the moon. We would need helium-3 mining if we were ever to use DFD for base load terrestrial power generation.

I chatted with the Aerospace Corporation. I worked with them on GPS IIR while at GE Astro Space. I explained that they might be interested in working with us on DFD particularly in applying it to Air Force applications like space based radar.

SpaceX had the crew chairs and displays from their Dragon Capsule in their exhibit. It was the coolest exhibit in the hall! I had a nice chat with their marketing person on DFD. SpaceX and Boeing recently were awarded contracts to develop the Commercial Crew vehicle.

Lockheed Martin had a huge exhibit. They had a 3D printer running


I talked with them about A2100, a comsat under design at GE Astro Space when I left. I also talked about ControlPlan applications for MUOS, a satellite Lockheed Martin is building for the Navy. We developed antenna beam optimization for MUOS using our ControlPlan multi-objective optimization package.

I spoke with Surrey about their new comsat program and suggested that we could help as we have extensive comsat experience. Surrey now has a U.S. branch. I spoke with the Canadian Armed Forces about their satellite programs. They were interested in our Kestrel Eye work.

The CN Tower is in the middle of the convention center:


On the way home I ate at the Apropos restaurant in the Air Canada terminal. It is really cool! You order through an iPad and pay using a credit card terminal next to the iPad. Besides being high tech, the food was really good! The restaurant can be seen in the following picture.


DFD at the IEPC

Explosions. Orbits. Stuff hurtling through space at high speed. At the George Washington University campus last week, eyes young and old were trained on the screen, witnessing an amazing story of what can happen in space.

And no, it was not “Gravity”. Nothing against Ms. Bullock or Mr. Clooney, but the 33rd International Electric Propulsion Conference was the place to be last week. The IEPC showcased some fascinating new developments in electric propulsion, including some very promising work on plasma and fusion engines. MSNW gave a great overview of their Fusion Driven Rocket, Ad Astra showed off impressive experimental results of their VASIMR engine, and the University of Surrey presented a novel quad confinement thruster, to name a few.

We were happy to present our paper on the Direct Fusion Drive Rocket for Asteroid Deflection.

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SmallSat Conference in the Cache Valley!

PSS attended the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah, Aug 12-15. The conference site, on the campus of Utah State University, couldn’t have been more beautiful!
View from the SmallSat venue, Logan Utah

The technical program, conference organization, and venue were all outstanding!  I bumped into several PSS MATLAB Toolbox customers and representatives from companies PSS has teamed with on past projects.

SmallSat signs guiding the way!

I also had the pleasure of connecting with a number of new companies and teams working on advanced small satellite projects. We presented our Asteroid Prospector paper as part of the Strength in Numbers Session. The presentation was well received and we had a number of individuals express interest and provide feedback on the concept afterwards.

Amanda on the last day of the conference

On Wednesday evening, I was able to take advantage of the organized group activities and participated in the hike in Logan Canyon. It was a great week! Hope to see you all again next year!

Direct Fusion Drive to Mars – A FISO Talk

The Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group invited us to give a talk in their weekly seminar track. On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, we gave a presentation entitled “Direct Fusion Drive for Fast Mars Missions with the Orion Spacecraft”. You can find the slides we presented in their online archive here.

We first discussed the need to get to Mars and back home fast (see our recent blog post on the risks of extended durations in space). We then presented some preliminary studies on the double rendezvous problem of Earth -to- Mars -to- Earth, and introduced the Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) as a future propulsion technology that can make this mission happen.

Dozens of people dialed in from around the country. Dr. Dan Lester (U Texas) and Dr. Harley Thronson (NASA Goddard) gave us a warm introduction, and there were a number of insightful questions throughout the talk that sparked interesting dialog. We were also joined by colleagues at MSNW who are developing another form of fusion propulsion, called the “The Fusion Driven Rocket“.

It was an honor to be part of the FISO working group. The questions and feedback we received from this group have been extremely valuable, and it is another sign of the growing interest in fusion propulsion!