With the cosmos becoming increasingly populated with satellites and, unfortunately, accumulating space debris, one Israeli startup is stepping up to the challenge. In a quest to keep the celestial sphere clean and enhance satellite propulsion, Space Plasmatics, founded by former Technion professor Igal Kronhaus, is working tirelessly.
Astonishingly, about 14,000 new satellites are expected to be launched by the end of the decade. Such an astronomical surge could contribute to around 9,000 tons of space debris, a figure that understandably raises concern. Given this predicament, there’s been a clear shift in regulations, with requirements now stipulating that launched satellites must demonstrate a convincing capacity to self-navigate out of the way at mission-end.
Rising to the occasion, Space Plasmatics was born. The company’s innovative solution? Plasma thrusters. This revolutionary tech uses ionized gas within an electric field to reposition satellites or guide them back to Earth – a considerable shift from traditional chemical propulsion methods.
Remarkably, these plasma thrusters harness power from solar cells, a feature already embedded in most modern satellites. The application of solar-powered electric propulsion hints at future potential for manned spacecraft missions to the Moon and Mars.
While originally envisioned in the 1950s for Mars expeditions, electric propulsion has found its niche in the satellite-laden skies of the 21st century. With satellites integral to various aspects of modern life, from GPS navigation to telecommunications, it’s clear the application is both here and needed.
Firmly rooted in space hardware, Space Plasmatics is a testament to the determination of its founders. Their venture is no small undertaking, with manufacturing physical products presenting its own unique set of challenges. However, their dedication is beginning to pay off, as recognized by the interest and support from entities like Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Israel Innovation Authority.
This significant boost of confidence from the IAI and a deal to develop plasma thrusters for their satellites indicate a shift in the industry. Larger satellites, weighing several hundred kilograms, are becoming the new industry focus, with their increased payload capacity providing quicker returns on investment.
At the heart of it all, the plasma thruster technology, a superior version of the Hall thruster model, relies on non-flammable gases like xenon and krypton. This ingenious approach reduces satellite weight and increases fuel efficiency while providing thrust for navigation.
While the path to the final product may still be under development, with a potential launch slated for Q2 2025, the synergy of advanced Israeli technology and the entrepreneurial spirit could pave the way for Space Plasmatics to make a significant mark in the space-tech realm.
Closing out this cosmic journey, let us celebrate Israel’s innovative spirit and entrepreneurial courage. As we look to the stars, it’s a testament to our pursuit of knowledge, our commitment to tackling complex problems, and our unwavering determination to make a positive impact on the world. Indeed, these are the values that make Israel shine brightly, here on Earth and far beyond in the infinite cosmos.