SmallSat Propellant Positioning

Conceptual representation of a magnetic positive positioning system on a CubeSat platform

Multiphase flow management is of critical importance to in-space propulsion systems. Achieving liquid and/or gas-free expulsion and controlling propellant sloshing have been two of the main drivers behind propellant tank design since the 1960s. Even though a wide variety of solutions exist for storable propellants in traditionally-shaped containers, propellant management remains largely unexplored for conformal tank geometries like those employed in CubeSats.

The LGST Laboratory is introducing and advancing the technology readiness levels of novel propellant management technologies based on magnetic, dielectrophoretic, and thermal phase change mechanisms. Analytical, computational, and experimental studies are currently underway with the ultimate goal of achieving flight-ready implementations.  These systems diverge from existing capillary propellant management technologies and have the potential to offer reduced mass and volume requirements with improved performance. While the focus of this project is on applications to SmallSat propellant management, these technologies have the potential to impact low-gravity fluid management as a whole, spanning life support systems, thermal management, cryogenics storage, and others.

Student lead:

Samuel T. Hart

Journal Articles:

Conference Papers & Presentations:

  • H. Chen, S. Hart, Á. Romero-Calvo, “Microgravity Testing of Thermally Induced Phase Change Propellant Management Device”, 2025 AIAA SciTech, Orlando, FL, Jan. 6-10, 2025
  • S. Hart, G. Lightsey, Á. Romero-Calvo, “Microgravity Testing of a Phase-Change Propellant Management Device”, ASGSR Meeting 2024, San Juan, PR, December 3-7, 2024
  • S. Hart, G. Lightsey, Á. Romero-Calvo, “Leveraging Phase Change for CubeSat Propellant Positioning”, In AIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition 2024, Orlando, FL, US, January 8-12, 2024, doi: 10.2514/6.2024-1834
  • S. T. Hart, G. Lightsey, Á. Romero-Calvo, “Phase Change CubeSat Propellant Management”, ASGSR Meeting 2023, Washington, DC, November 14-18, 2023
  • S. T. Hart, G. Lightsey, Á. Romero-Calvo, “Neutral Buoyancy Testing of Low-Gravity Propellant Management Devices”, ASGSR Meeting 2023, Washington, DC, November 14-18, 2023
  • S. Hart, G. Lightsey, Á. Romero-Calvo, “Capillary and Electromagnetic Smallsat Propellant Positioning“, In 2023 AAS Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, Breckenridge, CO, February 7, 2023


  • Á. Romero-Calvo, S. Hart, G. Lightsey, “Systems and Methods for Satellite Positioning”, US Application No. 63/483,138, February 2023