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11.17.19
Water Gun Satellite

Startup Tests Water Plasma Propulsion in Orbit

September 27th 19__Victor Tangermann__Filed Under: Off World
Momentus

Water Propulsion

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.

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.

Microwave Thrusters

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]

More on space propulsion:“Solar Sail” Spacecraft Climbs Two Miles of Orbit Using Sun Power