French engineers have designed a tiny ion motor that nano-satellites could use as a thruster to adjust their orbits.


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Swiss engineers have designed a tiny ion motor that nano-satellites could use as a thruster to adjust their orbits.

The motor weighs only seven ounces, and could work on satellites as small as four inches cubed.

Up to now, it wasn’t possible to reduce the size of maneuverable satellites below a certain point because of the size of their large thruster engines. If it is now possible to provide nano satellites with thrusters, it will be possible to significantly reduce the cost, and more importantly, the payload weight, of satellites. And with a lower payload weight, it will be possible to create a market for smaller rockets, which are much easier to build and far cheaper.

This kind of news makes me more confident that the new commercial space industry truly has a future.

One comment

  • Patrick Ritchie

    This is great news! And it’s applicable to much more than earth orbital satellites… if we can get robotic spacecraft on the same exponential miniaturization curve as many other technologies the cost of robotic exploration could drop by several orders of magnitude over the next decades…

    Just 100 ml (0.2 gal) of propellant would be enough to take a satellite to the Moon in six months.

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