NASA announced that MIT was selected under its SmallSat University Partnership Initiative to design and build a CubeSat to explore an asteroid in collaboration with NASA/JPL. The HiSPEED (High SPecific-impulse Electrospray Explorer for Deep-space) mission will be equipped with electrospray thrusters developed in the MIT Space Propulsion Lab under Professor Paulo Lozano. Through this program, NASA intends to establish small satellites and related technologies, such as the iEPS thrusters, as tools for deep space science and exploration. In particular, the HiSPEED mission will implement a novel approach to extend the on-orbit lifetime of the thrusters:
"This award will address the current life limitations of electrospray thrusters by developing a staged system that will eject degraded thruster heads, revealing new thruster heads beneath. The thruster heads are currently the life-limiting component of the system and staging multiple thruster heads may be a low-cost way to extend the life of the overall thruster."
The above figure shows an artist concept of the HiSPEED satellite ejecting one stage of thruster heads with a new set underneath ready to propel it forward.