As space exploration activity grows, research and development (R&D) in space propulsion systems is expected to increase. This R&D is aimed at developing new technologies to power future spacecraft and enable space exploration. There are two main types of space propulsion systems: chemical and electric.
Chemical systems include solid propellants and hydrazine-based systems. These systems are ideal for spacecraft that require a high thrust or need to perform rapid maneuvers. Although the specific impulse capability of these devices is relatively low, they are reliable and have been proven to perform well.
Electric propulsion systems include Hall-effect, gridded ion, electrothermal, and electrospray. They are suitable for small spacecraft applications because they operate at a lower cost. While the technology is still in development, the potential for its application to replace chemical systems is growing.
Propulsion systems used in smallsat missions are becoming more complex. They are being developed by industry, government, and academia. New technologies are being considered to optimize the design and lower the cost. A number of new companies are also developing smallsat propulsion technology. Some of these companies are backed by rich individuals or investment firms. The goal of these companies is to launch small satellites to LEO at a low cost.
During the past five years, global uses of mini-satellites have increased significantly. Many of these satellites are equipped with sensors to monitor weather patterns. Additionally, they provide a means of identifying enemy sites and executing precision strikes. In addition, satellites allow for prompt communication across battle-zones.
As space exploration activity increases, governments have invested heavily in space research. In addition, some new space industries have been formed to capitalize on this new industry. These companies have plans for airplane-borne rocket launchers to send small satellites to LEO. However, there are many obstacles that remain before these missions can be realized.
The development of smallsat propulsion technology has been accelerated over the last few years. There has been a surge in investments and a lot of confusing technical literature. Regardless of the specific technology, there is a need for more robust smallsat propulsion systems. It is important to understand that the market for propulsion devices is always evolving. Moreover, new technologies can be complex and can take longer to reach market.
One emerging trend is the introduction of hybrid motors. Currently, most of the existing rocket engines use risky and expensive chemical reactions. The new hybrid motor is expected to boost the global space propulsion systems market. GE Aviation is working on an Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration. This will involve ground and flight demonstrations.
A new type of smallsat propulsion system, called propellant-less propulsion, has been investigated for several years. Several companies have demonstrated non-toxic propellants, including NanoAvionics, who designed a mono-propellant propulsion system that aims to avoid collisions and extend the orbital lifetime of a satellite. Another example is the Lunar Flashlight Propulsion System, which was developed by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and is being integrated into LF Spacecraft.https://www.youtube.com/embed/byG0pNaB9Xo