Benchmark Space Systems Deploys its Xantus Electric Propulsion System on Orion's Satellite

Benchmark Space Systems Deploys its Xantus Electric Propulsion System on Orion's Satellite

Benchmark Space Systems, one of the leading developers and providers of in-space mobility solutions, announced its next-gen Xantus electric propulsion system has successfully deployed and will undergo subsystem health check and operational verification, including a range of firing modes aboard mission prime Orion Space Solutions’ 12U cubesat in low Earth orbit

Benchmark’s first electric propulsion system in space, launched aboard the SpaceX Transporter-10 rideshare mission, is tasked with end-to-end mission operations for Orion Space Solutions’ satellite as it supports the demonstration of cloud and weather data mapping for potential future military operations. Once the mission objectives are met, the Xantus metal plasma thrusters will be used to deorbit the spacecraft, a critical capability for regulatory compliance and the sustainability of LEO infrastructure.

Based on the early mission milestone, Benchmark is greenlighting shipments of dozens of Xantus MPTs to meet the pent-up demand for proven electric and hybrid propulsion systems among commercial and government operations. Of the 50-plus Xantus EP thrusters being shipped this year, Orion has baselined units in upcoming missions, and at least ten will go to UK-based In-Space Missions, a wholly owned subsidiary of BAE Systems, among several small satellite builders and operators that are integrating Xantus MPTs into electric and hybrid propulsion configurations for upcoming missions.

Multiple satellite and mission operators that need to go fast, station keep, and make precision maneuvers in space, are evaluating Benchmark’s hybrid duo of Xantus EP thrusters and Halcyon non-toxic chemical propulsion systems, which unlock expanded dynamic operations for 12U to ~200kg spacecraft that are often limited by a single technology, compromising mission capability and value.

The production Xantus metal plasma thrusters are baselined to run on the metal molybdenum, which offers the best combination of properties and efficient thrust generation among a variety of metal propellants tested in trials (also copper, stainless steel, aluminum, and magnesium). The MPTs are designed to ultimately run on metals that can be harvested in space, including spent space vehicle materials and orbital debris. 

“The Benchmark team is thrilled that our Xantus electric propulsion system and metal plasma thrusters are supporting this important mission for Orion Space and the US Government,” said Chris Carella, Chief Commercial Officer for Benchmark Space Systems. “Our government and commercial mission partners around the world have closely followed this historic first, as our Xantus metal plasma thrusters demonstrate their capabilities in space. Our partners have been preparing for space with our software and engineering development units (SDUs/EDUs), and they’re excited to soon be receiving shipments of flight units to close on their own missions in the months ahead.”

Early operations and telemetry will be used to validate the Xantus EP system’s thrust across several power levels and other key capabilities, which boost mission readiness and assurance levels realized during third-party testing at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio and at Benchmark’s Research and Development facility in Pleasanton, California.

“Our Xantus MPTs are designed to provide optimal station keeping for most cubesats, microsats in the range of 5 to 250 kilograms, and precision operations for ESPA-class satellites from 250 to 1000 kilograms. That’s a wide sweet spot, and we look forward to enabling dozens of upcoming missions to fly using what promises to be an extremely valuable electric propulsion tool in LEO, MEO, and GEO,” explained Kent Frankovich, Benchmark’s Vice President of Electric Propulsion, who is leading the company’s metal plasma thruster development.

The milestone debut of Benchmark’s electric propulsion system in space comes less than eighteen months after the company acquired the metal plasma thruster technology from Alameda Applied Sciences Corporation and follows a previous mission launch in January 2023 that did not deploy. The Xantus electric propulsion system, with its innovative MPTs, is one key element of Benchmark’s full in-space mobility strategy and market-leading lineup of propulsion systems and solutions. The company offers electric, green chemical, and hybrid platforms designed to provide speed, endurance, precision maneuvering, and deorbit capabilities to meet the fast-growing demand for dynamic and sustainable space operations across multiple orbits and mission profiles.

Click here to learn more about Thrusters from Benchmark Space Systems.

Click here to view other Spacecraft Thrusters from various manufacturers listed on SatNow.

Publisher: SatNow

GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013