Smallspark Space Systems and Southampton Uni to create SPRINT funded satellite thruster

Posted on 4 November, 2021 by Advance 

Cardiff-based Smallspark Space Systems will collaborate with the University of Southampton on a new project to design, manufacture and test fire a new satellite thruster, funded by the national SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme.

Image courtesy SPRINT

The high-performance satellite thruster will enable greater manoeuvrability and exploration freedom to low-mass satellites. This will create the first satellite thruster used in Low Earth Orbit or beyond, and the first ever hybrid rocket-based satellite thruster.

Current propulsion systems for SmallSats struggle to meet the requirements to allow satellites to enter an orbit around celestial bodies within the solar system. The SPRINT project will deliver a working prototype thruster which, due to its comparatively high performance and efficiencies, will meet these requirements. The thruster will have a high safety factor and will be reliable, refuellable and affordable, due to its simple, yet effective architecture.

The manufacturing of the engine will be carried out at the Engineering, Design and Manufacturing Centre (EDMC) at the University of Southampton with test firings carried out at the University’s Jet Propulsion facilities.

The new project follows the completion of a successful previous collaboration with the University of Southampton to develop new software to improve the performance of Smallspark’s aerostructures and propulsion systems.

Joe Ward, Chief Executive Officer of Smallspark Space Systems said: “We’re aiming to make the performance levels for large satellites available to the small satellite sector. We will simplify the system by stabilising propellants to provide smaller satellite operators with the ability to manoeuvre more easily, along with allowing the systems to refuel using upcoming depots.

“By collaborating with the University of Southampton, through SPRINT funding, we are accessing their knowledge of thruster technology, as one of the leading experts in this particular domain.”

Dr Charlie Ryan, Lecturer in Astronautics at the University of Southampton added: “We have knowledge of using Hydrogen Peroxide as a propellant and expertise in firing hybrid rockets. We will bring this to the SPRINT project with Smallspark to help them achieve their aspirations of moving into in-space propulsion of smaller engines for de-orbiting.”