Stories: Discover ThrustMe: The French start-up that is revolutionising space
The space industry is looking for new ways to ensure economic and environmental space sustainability with the rise of satellite mega-constellations. A solution lies in using in-orbit propulsion, but traditional systems are not fit for the New Space paradigm. Last month, the French start-up ThrustMe successfully fired their first iodine-fuelled electric propulsion system in space. This world-first in-orbit demonstration has the potential to transform the space industry.
The French deep-tech space propulsion company focuses on iodine as a propellant since it offers the possibility of being delivered in a custom-made format, simplifying and streamlining the satellite integration process. Overall, this technique's use represents a significant achievement for the satellite industry, promoting economic and environmental sustainability within this sector. The company's NPT30-I2-1U propulsion system was aboard the Beihangkongshi-1 satellite, that commissioned in space for several weeks. This breakthrough innovation leads to the possibility of iodine's commercialisation as a viable propellant for electric propulsion systems.
According to Ane Aanesland, CEO of ThrustMe, the company has been developing its iodine-fuelled electric propulsion system for quite some time to offer the best results:
"In 2008, we identified iodine as an ideal propellant for electric propulsion. Since then, we have developed several key technologies to offer a complete, standalone propulsion system to meet current and emerging market needs. This is an important product for our customers as it allows them to deploy their satellite constellations and to take corrective actions to mitigate collision or debris risks".
The development of ThrustMe's iodine technology was endorsed by the French government and different BPIFrance funding programs. Furthermore, the creation of their NPT30-I2-1U propulsion system has been supported by the French National Space Agency (CNES) and by the European Space Agency (ESA). Barnaby Osborne, Small Satellite Technology Coordinator for ESA Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, also congratulate the company on their latest achievements:
"The successful launch and the first firings are significant milestones in the development of ThrustMe's iodine electric propulsion system. We are pleased to support ThrustMe in developing and demonstrating this propulsion module through the ARTES C&G programme".
ThurstMe received a Phase 2 Grant from the European Innovation Council in 2018 to support their electric propulsion system's industrialisation process fuelled by iodine.