The European Space Agency has awarded Dawn Aerospace €200k GSTP funding to increase the performance of its green bi-propellant thrusters for satellites.
Dawn has received over €10 million in orders for satellite propulsion systems in the last 12 months, specifically the B20 and B1 green propellant thrusters and associated turn key systems. Thirty-three of these thrusters on eight spacecraft are already in orbit, with over 100 more thrusters either delivered to customers or in production. All current systems are in ‘Low Earth Orbit.’
“To support deep space missions like GTO to GEO transfers, or lunar and Mars insertions, we need to deliver large delta-v maneuvers,” says Stefan Powell, Dawn CEO and CTO. “To optimize our thrusters for these high-demand applications, we are increasing the performance and qualification levels of our already very successful products.”
The GSTP funding will go toward better understanding and improving thermal management to reduce stress on the combustion chamber materials, enabling longer-duration burns, higher total propellant throughput, and potentially higher specific impulse.
“We have already demonstrated that some of the key changes to the thruster are indeed viable. Early testing shows that there is a lot more performance to squeeze out of our design,” says Powell. “This funding will enable us to rapidly explore various different design options, after which we will qualify the most promising improvements for our customers.”
Following the demonstration of their key technologies in January 2021, The company has secured contracts with several SmallSat constellation builders, including Blue Canyon’s X-SAT Saturn-class satellites, Pixxel's hyperspectral imaging constellation, and the Indonesian Space Agency's (LAPAN) early-tsunami warning constellation.
With one hundred 1N and 20N thrusters on order — forecast to triple in the coming year — Dawn’s green bi-propellant technology is on track to become the second most prolific chemical propulsion type on orbit, after hydrazine — the toxic fuel Dawn is working to replace.
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