GomSpace’s subsidiary in Sweden and ESA have signed a contract to develop a miniaturized electric propulsion system suitable for small spacecrafts going on interplanetary missions.
The contract will be carried out under ESA’s General Support Technology Program during the next 18 months and the value is 700,000 euros. The work will be led by GomSpace Sweden and executed with ASP Equipment and IMS Space Consultancy.
Smallsats are also being considered in the frame of interplanetary science missions, and in case the small spacecraft is not hitch-hiking on a mother craft, reliable high-performance propulsion is a necessity. In this project, the goal is to develop an electric propulsion system that can take a 20 to 40 kg. class spacecraft from the edge of the Earth’s gravitational field to an asteroid.
The project will expand GomSpace’s propulsion capabilities to span both cold-gas technology for station-keeping, collision avoidance and maneuvering as well as electric propulsion technology for orbit changes, e.g., for safely disposing of spacecraft after the end of a mission.
GomSpace CEO Niels Buus commented that this is an important step in expanding the company’s propulsion capabilities. Providing such small spacecraft with their own propulsion capabilities will significantly reduce the cost to perform interplanetary missions. Furthermore, such a propulsion capability will also find several applications on the commercial market in Earth orbits, as well.