Accion is one of 14 American companies selected by NASA as part of its Tipping Point partnership for Moon and Mars technologies.

Accion’s pioneering in-space propulsion system will be used on replicas of the MarCO CubeSats, NASA’s first CubeSats that traveled on an interplanetary mission.  Accion will work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to replace the cold gas propulsion system that was used on the MarCO CubeSats with a more efficient ion electrospray propulsion system. 

Accion’s propulsion uses a smaller and lighter liquid ion technology that uses less power without sacrificing performance. Accion removed the heavy tanks, pumps, valves, toxic propellants, external cathodes and ionization chambers found in conventional electric propulsion systems and created a new ion engine: one that’s lighter, more efficient, more powerful — and manufactured hundreds of units at a time.

Accion received $3.9 million for the project, with an anticipated kickoff in March 2020 and a launch in the summer of 2021. 

“We are thrilled to be selected as one of NASA’s Tipping Point technologies partners.  It’s an exciting opportunity for our company to show how smaller, lighter and safer propulsion can have better performance and use less power,” said Natalya Bailey, CEO and Co-founder of Accion Systems. “It also is an excellent example of public-private partnership — a model that we see as the future of enabling space exploration.” 

“Tipping Point” is a NASA program that seeks industry-developed space technologies that can foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions. A technology is considered at a tipping point if an investment in a demonstration will significantly mature the technology, increase the likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application, and bring the technology to market for both government and commercial applications. 

NASA wrote in their press release announcing Tipping Point selection: “These promising technologies are at a ‘tipping point’ in their development, meaning NASA’s investment is likely the extra push a company needs to significantly mature a capability,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “These are important technologies necessary for sustained exploration of the Moon and Mars. As the agency focuses on landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program, we continue to prepare for the next phase of lunar exploration that feeds forward to Mars.”

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