Earth Observant successfully tests next-generation propulsion technology to support future very low Earth orbit missions
(18 February 2021 - Earth Observant) Earth Observant Inc. (EOI) successfully completed a series of tests on its internally developed Hall-effect thruster that introduces new propellant types while maintaining thruster efficiency and minimizing erosion.
This technology supports EOI's core mission of operating a Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) constellation of Earth Imaging satellites to deliver ultra-high resolution image data.
EOI's proprietary electric propulsion system glows blue during vacuum chamber testing at Air Force Research Lab's facility (SPEF) at Edwards AFB in December 2020. This propulsion tech supports EOI's core mission of operating in very low orbits for commercial & defense applications.
The HET-X Thruster combines powerful new technology, including magnetic shielding with a center-mounted cathode, a unique thermal cooling design and an effective propellant management system, in a unit weighing less than 2 kilograms (kg). The preliminary test results conducted in a vacuum chamber show sustained power input levels between 350 – 2500 watts with thruster output recorded between 20 – 140 millinewtons and specific impulse between 1300 – 2200 ISP.
This propulsion technology enables crucial satellite operating maneuvers, including drag makeup, orbital plane changes, upper stage payload ferrying, and controlled deorbiting. The potential system-wide benefits of incorporating new propellant types and other design improvements include cost reduction, elimination of high-pressure storage vessels, and use of in-situ propellants during operations.
"This successful test series is an important step in the development of the HET-X Thruster and brings us one step closer to producing a commercially viable VLEO satellite," says Christopher Thein, CEO of Earth Observant Inc. "We also foresee other organizations finding value in this innovative thruster technology for enabling in-orbit attitude adjustments, constellation spacing and alignment, and safe deorbiting of their own satellites."
About Earth Observant Inc. (EOI)
Based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Earth Observant Inc. is developing a unique low-flying constellation of satellites to collect affordable "ultra-high" resolution image data supporting defense and commercial business intelligence. EOI's mission is to offer radiometrically accurate ultra-high resolution imagery for all markets to encourage widespread use.