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Bipropellant Thrusters

4 N Thruster
10 N Thruster
22 N Thruster
200 N Thruster - ATV

200 N Bipropellant Thruster

Designed for attitude, orbit control and re-entry manoeuvres for heavy man-rated spacecraft.

200 N Thruster Background

200N bipropellant thruster.
200 N bipropellant thruster

The 200N bipropellant thruster was developed and qualified by Snecma (groupe Safran), for applications such as attitude control, orbital manoeuvring and braking of ESA‘s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).


ASL acquired the license to manufacture the thruster for ESA programme's and to modify the design in accordance with programme needs. The transfer of both production and product design authority was accomplished at the end of 2009.

The ATV programme has served the International Space Station with the most complex space vehicle ever developed in Europe, having achieved five launches in six years following its 2008 debut. The end of the fifth ATV mission George Lemaitre in February 2015 marked the end of the ATV programme.


The 200 N bipropellant thruster has been selected to fly in the future NASA Programme ORION Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle, NASA’s new spacecraft built to send humans further than ever before.


The engine is designed to be capable of both steady-state and pulse mode operation throughout a very broad regimes of inlet conditions whilst exhibiting outstanding thermal and combustion stability even at extreme conditions.


To meet the specific Fault Detection, Isolation and Recovery (FDIR) needs of man rated missions, the engine is equipped with flight sensors for continuously monitoring e.g. in-flight leak detection, chamber temperature and combustion pressure.


200 N Thruster Qualification Box

The complete qualification box has been proven and the thruster performance (ISP, c*), measured thus:


200 N Thruster Operating Box.
200 N Thruster Operating Box



200 N Thruster Hot-Fire Testing

Infrared temperature profile of 200N bipropellant thruster..
Temperature profile of 200 N thruster taken with infrared camera



200 N bipropellant thruster firing test in high altitude chamber.
200 N thruster firing test in high altitude chamber

200 N Thruster Characteristics

The 200 N thruster was designed and developed in accordance with the special ATV requirements, and exhibits the following characteristics:



200 N Bipropellant Thruster Characteristics
Thrust nominal 216N ± 10N
Thrust Range 180N ± 15N to 270N ± 15N
Specific Impulse at nominal point > 2650 Ns/Kg (>270s)
Flow rate nominal 78g/s
Flow rate range 60 to 100 g/s
Mixture ratio nominal 1.65 ± 0.035
Mixture ratio range 1.2 - 1.9
Chamber pressure nominal 8 bar
Inlet pressure range 13 - 24 bar
Minimum on time 28ms
Minimum off time 28ms
Minimum impulse bit < 8 Ns at 28 ms
Pulse frequency 1 to 5 Hz
Throat diameter (inner) 12 mm
Nozzle end diameter (inner) 95 mm
Nozzle expansion ratio (by area) 50
Injector type Impingement with film cooling
Mass, Thruster with valves and instrumentation 1.9 kg
Chamber / Nozzle material SiCrFe coated niobium alloy
Fuel MMH (qualified) / UDMH (demonstrated)
Oxidizer MON-3 (qualified) / N2O4 (demonstrated)
Valve Monostable dual coil solenoids, 32W
Cumulated on time 46500 s
Cumulated number of pulses 270000
Number of full thermal cycles 375
Max. t_on (single burn) 11400s


ATV 200 N Attitude Control and Braking Thruster Cluster

Production of the 200 N Attitude Control and Braking Thruster has been entrusted to the propulsion specialists at Airbus Space Systems, Lampoldshausen.


A total of 28 x 200 N thrusters are used on the ATV, located thus:

  • Fwd: 4 clusters of 2 thrusters.
  • Aft: 4 clusters of 5 thrusters.


The thruster clusters deliver both steady state thrust and impulse bit and can also be used as back-up in the event of main engine failure.


Safety and redundancy are major design drivers and each thruster is equipped to measure and detect malfunctions and problems by continuously measuring chamber temperature and combustion pressure.


Airbus Space Systems Lampoldshausen are also responsible for the production, integration and acceptance testing of:


  • ATV propulsion module pressure control assemblies (PCA).
  • Propellant Isolation Assembly (PIA).
  • Propulsion system qualification



220 N ATV bipropellant thruster cluster.
200 N ATV bipropellant aft thruster cluster


200 N Bipropellant Thruster Heritage and Future Missions


200 N Bipropellant Thruster Heritage
Spacecraft Launch
ATV - 1 Jules Verne 2008
ATV - 2 Johannes Kepler 2011
ATV - 3 Edoardo Amaldi 2012
ATV - 4 Albert Einstein 2013
ATV - 5 Georges Lemaître 2014
Orion MPCV-ESM "EM-1" 2018
Orion MPCV-ESM "EM-2" 2021


About the Automated Transfer Vehicle

Automated Transfer Vehicle with .

Automated Transfer Vehicle with
220 N thruster clusters shown fwd and aft

On 9 March 2008, Europe's first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), was launched by an ES ATV version of Ariane 5. Its mission, to deliver its 45 m³ pressurised module containing up to 7.2 tonnes of equipment, fuel, food, water and air to the crew of the International Space Station (ISS). This, the maiden flight of ATV was named 'Jules Verne'.


About 1,500 people in different European countries worked on this €900-million ESA programme.


As its name implies, the ATV was a truly automated vehicle. It could navigate and safely dock to the space station and accomplish its mission without any human intervention whatsoever. The ATV was therefore the first fully automatic resupply spacecraft of its kind. Such autonomy, together with its fault tolerance requirements, imposed about one million lines of software code for the various onboard computers.


The ATV's were launched on an ES ATV version of Ariane 5, which placed the spaceship into a 260 km circular low Earth orbit inclined to 51.6°. From this orbit, the ATV used its own propulsion system to automatically navigate to, and dock with, the Space Station.

ATV Propulsion System

The ATV propulsion system is contained in the unpressurised Service Module, located aft of the habitable Pressurised Module. The Service Module also contains electrical power, computers, communications and avionics.


The bipropellant propulsion system is pressure fed with the propellant combination monomethyl hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidiser. The main elements of the ATV propulsion being:


  • 4 x 490 N main navigation engines.
  • 28 x 200 N attitude control and braking thrusters.
  • 8 titanium propellant tanks of 7 tonnes capacity.
  • 2 high pressure carbon fibre-wound helium pressurant vessels.


The propulsion system is designed to perform:


  • Navigation to the Space Station, after separation from Ariane 5.
  • Automatic manoeuvres for rendezvous and docking to the ISS.
  • While docked, the ATV will perform ISS attitude control, debris avoidance manoeuvres and raising of the 183 tonne
    Unpressurised service module containing ATV's propulsion system.
    Unpressurised service module
    containing ATV's propulsion system
    station's orbit to overcome the effects of atmospheric drag.
  • After 6 months - de-docking and automatic departure manoeuvres.
  • Navigation to the orbital deorbitation point.
  • Retroburn and de-orbitation manoeuvres.

From the 7 tonnes of available propellant, approximately 2.3 tonnes is available for free flight manoeuvres and approximately 4.7 tonnes is available for manoeuvring the space station at intervals of 10 to 45 days.


In the event of a thruster, or main engine failure, redundant branches and control electronics are used to switch propulsive functions to fulfil operational objectives and safety requirements.


The scale of ATV, together with the complexity of propulsive manoeuvres and proximity to man, results in a propulsion subsystem that is one of the largest and most sophisticated ever built. In fact, the internal volume of the complete ATV is sufficient to accommodate a double-decker London bus.


The entire propulsion system in nominal and failure mode can be simulated using ATVSim. Using this software, the simulation process can be accomplished significantly faster than in real-time.


Views of the ATV Propulsion System



ATV Propulsion System Layout

ATV Propulsion System Layout




Integration of the ATV Propulsion System
Integration of the ATV Propulsion System



ATV propulsion system at final stages of integration
Propulsion system at final stages of integration
ATV propulsion system at final stages of integration
Propulsion system at final stages of integration



Propellant tank platform with tubing and control electronics.
Propellant tank platform with tubing and control electronics
Propellant tank platform with tubing and control electronics.
Propellant tank platform with tubing and control electronics


More Information


PDF document

ATV Fact Sheet, courtesy ESA.



ATV Description
EnlargeATV Description

Comparison of ATV with Progress and Apollo.
EnlargeComparison of ATV with Progress and Apollo