Momentus
Water Gun Satellite

Startup Tests Water Plasma Propulsion in Orbit

byVictor Tangermann
9. 27. 19
Momentus

This marks the first time water plasma has been used to propel a spacecraft.

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.

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“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.

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“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


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