Accion Systems has announced that two TILE 2 in-space propulsion system units will launch onboard an Astro Digital smallsat aboard the June 2021 SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare launch.
Astro Digital’s Tenzing satellite is a rideshare satellite, hosting several payloads. Also included are two TILE 2 ion electrospray propulsion systems that will test on-orbit maneuvers in LEO and will test proximity operations maneuvers supported by Starfish Space software.
The TILE propulsion system is uniquely superior to conventional electric propulsion, pioneering ionic liquid electrospray for commercial and government propulsion activities. The TILE 2 is the smallest system available, with unparalleled system SWaP (size, weight and power), that combines the use of a safe, inert liquid propellant and a simple mechanical design with few moving parts to create a propulsion system that is low-cost, compact, low pressure, and has less than 50% of the power draw of other propulsion technologies.
As part of the mission, Accion Systems and Starfish Space will complete an on-orbit proximity operations demonstration. The team will combine Starfish’s CEPHALOPOD software and Accion’s TILE 2 thrusters, both already a part of the Tenzing mission, to work together to perform the first ever demonstration of rendezvous and proximity operations trajectories using low-thrust electric propulsion.
Starfish Space is commercializing their CEPHALOPOD software package, which opens up new opportunities for satellite rendezvous, proximity operations and docking (RPOD) missions. CEPHALOPOD is autonomous RPOD software that can use electric propulsion, enabling small RPOD spacecraft. This on-board guidance, navigation, and control capability gives small servicing vehicles eight times more maneuvering capability, which results in greater mission longevity and versatility.
“Propulsive and RPOD technologies are critical to enabling the future of space missions,” said Chris Biddy, CEO of Astro Digital. “We are thrilled to support Accion Systems and Starfish Space with this important demonstration.”
“Efficient proximity operations will enable a new set of activities in orbit,” said Austin Link, Co-Founder of Starfish Space. “Partnering with Accion on this test is key to validating our respective technical developments and showing they can work together.”
“Precision proximity operations are critical for maintaining large constellations, refueling and repairing satellites in orbit, and countless other new space missions from in-space manufacturing to space touris,.” said Peter Kant, CEO of Accion Systems. “Combining Accion’s precise, modular thrusters with Starfish’s autonomy software will bring needed innovation to in-space navigation.”