Thrustercontrol electronics box for thruster projects [Dawn Aerospace]

Dawn Aerospace is a leading supplier of turnkey green propulsion systems for NanoSat, MicroSat, ESPA, and ESPA Grande-class satellites. Dawn propulsion technology often achieves superior performance than traditional hydrazine systems by using a unique, green-propellant combination; nitrous oxide and propylene. Having proven this technology on orbit for both CubeSats and small satellites, Dawn propulsion systems have now flown on Vega, Falcon 9, and Soyuz launchers.


The B1 thruster is currently utilized as the central thruster in Dawn’s CubeDrive propulsion modules and as a modular building block within Dawn’s turn-key SatDrive systems. They can be positioned throughout the spacecraft, in clusters, and at various cant-angles. The B1’s assembly includes the thruster body, valves, and control electronics.

For the control electronics box which made with aluminum 6061-T6, we 3Q MACHINING responsible for machining all these aluminum boxes, which we were able to turn around in just a few weeks. Here’s how we did it.

aluminum box base
aluminum box

Control electronics box [aluminum alloy 6061-T6]

Since 2021 Dawn Aerospace developed thruster products , we made the prototype sample*1 set for customer to do new product test.

After we confirmed drawing details such as “raw material, specification, surface treatment” and order quantity with customer, we start to make the prototype immediately with our 3-axis CNC machining center. 

However, since the box thickness is thin that easy to have machining tool mark on the box surface , we had to make sure do polishing on the surface to remove all machining tool mark, also deburr for all thread holes as per our standard procedure.

After deburr and polishing job, we started the cleaning process and apply alodine coating for all aluminum control electronics box as per drawing requirement. When complete cnc machining & surface treatment, our QC measured all dimensions based on the CAD drawing and cosmetic inspection, then finished FAI report.

In this sense, the control electronics box project was fairly common for us. We’re used to carrying out precision CNC machining for metal prototypes and end-use parts, and we’re also experts at CNC machining metal tooling for molding applications. But we rarely do both at the same time.

The step-by-step process for creating the aluminum boxes involved:

  • CNC Machining the base and lid from aluminum block to desired shape and dimensions.
  • Laser engraving the text with 0.50mm depth.
  • Hand-polishing the aluminum box
  • Alodine coating for whole aluminum box

The good news is the first prototype sample works well, we continue to working with Dawn Aerospace for its Thruster products to supply the electronics aluminum boxes, also co-operate to develop more other machining parts. 

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