- Press Release
- Sep 29, 2023
Mini CubesatSpace Thruster That Runs On Water
Designed to manoeuvre the smallest classes of satellite, the operation of this Iridium Catalysed Electrolysis CubeSat Thruster (ICE-Cube Thruster) developed with Imperial College in the UK is based on electrolysis.
Avoiding any need for bulky gaseous propellant storage, an associated electrolyser runs a 20-watt current through water to produce hydrogen and oxygen to propel the thruster.
The ICE-Cube Thruster is so small in scale – with its combustion chamber and nozzle measuring less than 1mm in length – that it could only be assembled using a MEMS (Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems) approach, borrowing methods from the microelectronics sector.
A test campaign achieved 1.25 millinewtons of thrust at a specific impulse of 185 seconds on a sustained basis. Testing took place through an ESA General Support Technology Programme De-Risk activity, to prove the thruster’s feasibility in a laboratory testing.
The experimental data gathered during this activity will help guide development of a flight-representative ‘Engineering Model’ of the propulsion system, including the electrolyser. This development will be led by URA Thrusters in collaboration with Imperial.