The 3U ALICE (AFIT LEO iMESA CNT Experiment) CubeSat was developed at the Air Force Institute of Technology for the NRO. The 5-Kilogram satellite is equipped with four deployable solar arrays and body-mounted panels to supply power for a number of technical demonstrations carried out aboard the vehicle. The satellite payload is highlighted by a pair of carbon nanotube arrays that will be used to demonstrate carbon nanotubes as electron emitters for future spacecraft propulsion that would use the generated electrons to ionize gaseous propellant for ejection. Each array is about one square centimeter in size and contains as much as 50,000 nanotubes.
ALICE exposes one array to space while the other one is protected within the satellite. The arrays will be activated and their performance will be studied by an Integrated Miniaturized Electromagnetic Analyzer (iMESA). Using carbon nanotubes in future ion propulsion systems would drastically reduce their power requirements.