This marks the first time water plasma has been used to propel a spacecraft.
A startup called Momentus is testing a new in-orbit water plasma propulsion system to maneuver satellites.
And early rounds of tests have gone without any major hurdles — and the trials mark the first time in history that water plasma propulsion has been used by a spacecraft, according to the company.
#ElCaminoReal is performing as expected! This successfully demonstrates for the first time, in-space water plasma propulsion, and also demonstrates the technology, which has the highest specific impulse among other water-based propulsion.
— MOMENTUS (@momentusspace) September 9, 2019
The system was developed to move micro-satellites between levels of orbit, from where they were dropped off to where they're needed to operate.
"Water plasma propulsion is now technologically mature enough to be baselined for operational in-space transportation missions," Momentus CEO Mikhail Kokorich told SpaceNews.
The startup has been testing the propulsion system on their El Camino Real — also known as Momentus X1 — spacecraft that launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket in July 2019.
The microwave-sized cubesat spacecraft uses water as a fuel to power its microwave electrothermal thruster to cycle between orbits.
Even freezing lines of propellant couldn't stop the spacecraft.
"The system proved to be highly resilient and post-freezing, all units were successfully verified to operate as expected," Kokorich told SpaceNews.
READ MORE: Momentus reports success in testing water plasma propulsion [Space News]
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