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Britain's space capabilities boosted by Pulsar Fusion's latest engine test
The engineering feat involved in testing such a large engine was considerable, given its design for operation exclusively in space. The necessity of a large vacuum chamber posed a unique challenge for the scientists involved in the demonstration. Dr. James Lambert, Head of Operations at Pulsar Fusion, elaborated on the distinct nature of these engines.
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Britain's space capabilities boosted by Pulsar Fusion's latest engine test
by Sophie Jenkins
London, UK (SPX) Feb 01, 2024

Pulsar Fusion has marked a significant achievement in the realm of space technology by successfully demonstrating a cutting-edge space engine, distinguished as the largest ever fired in Britain. This new engine, designed to propel a more advanced generation of satellites, represents a leap in the capabilities of in-space propulsion systems.

In a recent test conducted at the University of Southampton, the company showcased this giant engine, which is ten times larger than conventional engines in its category. This test, executed on Monday, 29th January, was a part of a collaborative effort partly funded by the UK Space Agency. The agency's involvement underscores the national significance of this advancement in the UK's space technology sector.

As the global landscape of launch services evolves, there's an observable trend towards larger orbital payloads. This shift necessitates the development of more powerful propulsion systems, capable of handling the demands of increasingly substantial satellites. Pulsar Fusion's successful test signals a crucial step in meeting this growing need, with their large plasma engines now set to enable the deployment of much larger satellites in space.

The engineering feat involved in testing such a large engine was considerable, given its design for operation exclusively in space. The necessity of a large vacuum chamber posed a unique challenge for the scientists involved in the demonstration. Dr. James Lambert, Head of Operations at Pulsar Fusion, elaborated on the distinct nature of these engines.

Unlike the conventional fiery rockets used during launches, these plasma engines must operate reliably in the vacuum of space and sustain performance over many years. This requires extensive testing under Earth conditions that mimic the vacuum of space, a process that involves handling super-hot plasma at several million degrees.

Highlighting the evolving landscape of satellite technology, Dr. Lambert noted, "Satellites are getting bigger and therefore they need bigger engines." This trend is driven partly by the activities of companies like SpaceX, which regularly deploys client satellites into orbit. Once released from the rocket, these satellites rely on dedicated propulsion systems for navigation and orbital maintenance.

Richard Dinan, the founder of Pulsar Fusion, spoke on the broader implications of this development. He pointed out that this technological milestone not only represents an important business opportunity for Pulsar and the UK but also reaffirms Britain's standing as a center of excellence in plasma physics. The successful testing of this engine is expected to keep UK scientists at the forefront of this field for many years.

This development by Pulsar Fusion highlights the UK's continued prowess in space technology, particularly in the specialized area of plasma propulsion. The collaboration with the UK Space Agency and the utilization of the University of Southampton's facilities demonstrate a robust ecosystem for space technology development within the country.

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