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Phase Four Secures DARPA Contract for Air-Breathing Electric Propulsion System

Radio frequency thruster

Phase Four Secures DARPA Contract for Air-Breathing Electric Propulsion System

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded Phase Four a $14.9 million contract to develop an air-breathing electric propulsion system for satellites in very low Earth orbit.

The contract is part of DARPA’s Otter program, which seeks to integrate air-breathing electric propulsion that uses ambient low-density air as propellant, providing satellites with an onboard fuel source and extended VLEO operations, Phase Four said.

DARPA will leverage Phase Four’s radio frequency thruster as it is designed to operate on said harvested air, offering an advantage over standard electric propulsion systems that degrade with non-traditional propellants.

Previously, DARPA awarded Phase Four a contract to adapt its radio frequency thruster to operate on new, low-cost propellants, as well as to develop a prototype engine and vacuum chamber testing.

Jason Wallace, president of Phase Four’s government programs unit, said the addition of the Otter program expands Phase Four’s reach across the space domain, from near-space to deep-space applications. He also expressed the company’s commitment to support DARPA in exploring national security opportunities in VLEO.

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Category: Space

Tags: contract award DARPA electronic propulsion Jason Wallace Phase Four radio frequency thruster satellite space very low Earth orbit