Orbion Space Technology stated that it had been awarded a contract by the United States Air Force to create and illustrate high-thrust propulsion to aid tiny spacecraft in avoiding collisions with other satellites or space debris.
The Air Force AFWERX program awarded Orbion a Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research deal to support the company’s work on the El Matador, a collision prevention feature that “allows a spaceship to move out of the way stylishly and evade the horns of an inbound threat,” according to Brad King, founder, and CEO of Orbion.
El Matador, a high-thrust cold-gas nozzle integrated into the thruster head of Orbion’s Aurora Hall-effect thruster meant for the small satellites, is available as an option on the Aurora Hall-effect thruster.
In an email, King explained that a high-thrust thruster nozzle is designed to replace and perform the same operation as bolt fastener in Aurora Hall thruster. As a result, the nozzle has the exact same mass as bolt it is intended to replace, and the net mass impact on the system is virtually non-existent. “El Matador is not just ‘another’ propulsion system that can be placed on top of the Hall-effect thruster,” says the author. Instead, we discovered a technique to tweak the Hall-effect thruster such that it could perform both functions.”
According to Greg Orndorff, who serves as the vice president in charge of the business development at Orbion, as increasingly small satellites embrace electric propulsion, which allows them to modify their orbits, it is getting increasingly difficult to “reliable anticipate orbit position days in advance.” “As a result, we should expect to get more combination notices with shorter alert times.”
Because tiny satellite operators may be descending via increasingly saturated areas of the low Earth orbit in the future, Orndoff predicts that small satellite operators may desire greater control over spacecraft deorbiting in the future.
Orbion Space Technology is in the process of developing and producing breakthrough plasma propulsion systems for tiny satellite applications. Because of their high fuel efficiency, Orbion’s thrusters have the potential to save spaceship operators millions of dollars in operational costs while simultaneously boosting the value of the data returned by the spacecraft itself. Orbion has developed a revolutionary manufacturing method that will allow the company to produce plasma rockets at unprecedentedly high rates, which will be necessary to arm the space revolution with the necessary equipment.
Within the next 7 years, more than 5,000 tiny satellites will be deployed into orbit. These satellites will carry out Big Data missions like delivering wireless worldwide internet access and taking detailed photographs of the Earth’s surface every hour from any location on the planet’s surface. To navigate in space, counteract drag, and perform a controlled re-entry at the end of the mission, each of these satellites will require its propulsion. This will prevent space debris from clogging up the atmosphere.