projects

We work with key space industry stakeholders on the technologies of tomorrow that are in line with our products and services. We feel part of the new space industry and contribute to the development of the future space ecosystem by advancing fields of space propulsion, in-space logistics, and satellite mobility.

Hybrid propellant thruster using plasma discharge with the dual-mode capability

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Historically in chemical thrusters, hydrazine has been almost exclusively used for both mono- and bipropellants. However, due to its toxicity and costly handling, as well as legal restrictions, the search for its replacement has intensified. We develop a hybrid propellant thruster (HPT) for small spacecrafts, ranging in mass and size from nanosatellites to ESPA-class. It is high-thrust chemical propulsion, using green and low-cost propellants. With green propellants, the cost and risk associated with the transport, storage, handling, cleanup, and human exposure are mitigated or significantly reduced. Therefore, green propulsion offers much safer, faster, and more cost-effective spacecraft ground operations and launches, which are key for the future New Space economy.

The goal is to develop a green, low-cost, and volumetrically efficient propulsion system that can be used on various small spacecrafts, including Earth orbit satellites and exploration missions. We will test a novel approach to the ignition of the hybrid propellant thruster based on the plasma discharge, which shall allow the thruster to operate in both chemical and electric modes, making it a multimode propulsion system. Both modes will share common hardware and propellant enhancing significantly spacecraft’s performance on the system level, and covering nearly all possible maneuvers. 

Progress 10%

Pulsed plasma thruster for nano- and microsatellites using liquid propellant

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Recently, the use of small satellites has drastically increased for both commercial and government missions. It results in a growing need for miniaturized propulsion systems that increase the performance and capability of the small spacecraft. Small satellites impose stricter requirements on the volume, mass, cost, and power consumption of the propulsion system than larger spacecrafts. Electric propulsion seems to be a good choice for small satellites not requiring high thrust.

Pulsed Plasma Thruster (PPT) is a type of electric propulsion, which generates thrust similarly to the railgun, but with plasma as a projectile. The propellant is ionized to generate plasma and accelerated by the electromagnetic forces through the nozzle. 

We develop a PPT propulsion system dedicated to nanosatellites, as it is highly compact (< 0.5 U), and very flexible in terms of power consumption (we can operate below 1 W). aVirtually all PPTs use PTFE as a propellant, but in our design, we use liquid polymer, which gives us more than a 30% efficiency boost. It is the first PPT on the market using liquid propellant. The entire system is designed with industrialization in mind, to meet the low-cost, short lead-time, and reliability requirements of the satellite manufacturers.

Progress 55%

Electrothermal thruster for nano- and microsatellites

pobrane

Currently, most of the developed electric propulsion systems offer high efficiency but generate extremely low thrust, which makes maneuvers extremely time-consuming and prohibits rapid change of the orbit, for example in response to orbital collision risk.

Electrothermal thruster uses electric energy to heat up and accelerate propellant to achieve higher specific impulses (efficiency). Thanks to the high mass flow rate it can achieve relatively high thrust with moderate specific impulse, which makes it „high-thrust” compared to other electric propulsion technologies. At the same time, it can be designed as a robust and low-cost system, making it the perfect choice for the small satellite requiring a reliable space mobility solution.

The goal of the project is to develop the entire electrothermal propulsion system and perform in-orbit demonstration and verification. The thruster includes a high-temperature heating element made of refractory alloys to improve its performance. The development is focused on the reliability and reduced impact on the satellite design to make it a plug-and-play propulsion subsystem for small satellites.

Progress 25%

High-temperature material characterisation for thruster applications

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Chemical thrusters are widely used on spacecrafts since the beginning of space exploration. Thruster firing operations create a highly aggressive environment for which only materials with high-temperature capability can be selected as the material temperature may exceed 1800°C. However, most information that relates to the properties of commonly used materials is confined to lower temperatures due to the difficulty of simulating the thruster’s operating condition on the standardized test samples. There is limited information on the high-temperature properties of the materials used in the thrust chamber, nozzles, and expansion nozzles, particularly in areas such as life cycle fatigue and creep.

The primary objective of the project is to establish material test data for common thruster nozzle/chamber materials tested at elevated temperatures. This will provide an improved understanding of thruster design, qualification, and reliability. The data will form the foundation for a potential relaxation in design requirements for the development of future thruster products on ESA programs.

The activity includes the common materials used in thrusters, such as Niobium alloys (C103), Platinum-Rhodium alloys, Rhenium, and In718. All mechanical testing at elevated temperatures is performed in a vacuum to ensure a relevant environment during the tests.

Progress 75%

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