24/7 Space News
ESA and IENAI Space unveil innovative electrospray propulsion for small satellites
illustration only
ESA and IENAI Space unveil innovative electrospray propulsion for small satellites
by Sophie Jenkins
Paris (ESA) Dec 28, 2023

In a significant advancement for small satellite propulsion, the European Space Agency (ESA) and IENAI Space, a Spain-based technology firm, have introduced an innovative electrospray propulsion system known as ATHENA (Adaptable THruster based on Electrospray powered by Nanotechnology). This pioneering technology, designed to enhance the maneuverability and longevity of CubeSats and similar small satellites, has recently achieved over 400 hours of continuous operation, marking a milestone in the field of satellite propulsion.

The core of ATHENA's design lies in its seven emitter arrays, each meticulously etched onto a silicon wafer using advanced micro- and nano-technology. These arrays comprise more than 500 pinhole-sized emitters, which discharge ions at high velocities. The ions are accelerated using an electrostatic field, maximizing the thrust generated by the system. This approach is not only inherently scalable but also stands out for its mass- and cost-efficiency, making it particularly suitable for CubeSats and other small-scale satellites.

Daniel Perez Grande, CEO and Co-founder of IENAI Space, emphasized the challenges and triumphs of developing ATHENA. "Everyone knows that 'space is hard', but we like to say that 'propulsion is harder'," he commented. Perez Grande highlighted the customizability and performance of their propulsion products, noting that they have already attracted interest from various industry players.

ATHENA's unique propulsion mechanism relies on conductive ionic-liquid salts, which serve as fuel. These liquids pass through nano-textured conical emitters and are then accelerated between an emitter and an extractor operating at different electric potentials. The interaction between the surface tension of the liquid and the electrostatic field results in the formation of ions that can be expelled at speeds around 20km/s, generating the necessary force to propel the satellite.

One of the most notable features of the ATHENA system is its capability for highly customizable thrust, using environmentally friendly, non-toxic 'green' propellants. This technology eliminates the need for pressurized tanks, further enhancing the safety and simplicity of satellite designs. The thrusters can be clustered freely as needed, with up to six units fitting onto the 10 cm face of a single CubeSat unit. These units can be further clustered to provide thrust for satellites weighing up to 50kg.

The ATHENA project has successfully passed its Preliminary Design Review, with an aim to deliver a final product by the end of next year. This development is part of ESA's General Support Technology Programme, which focuses on readying innovative products and services for both spaceflight and the commercial market.

This novel propulsion system represents a significant step forward in the field of satellite technology, offering a flexible, efficient, and eco-friendly solution for the propulsion of small satellites. With its continuous operation and customizable capabilities, ATHENA is poised to become a key player in the evolving landscape of space technology.

More information here

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Virgin Galactic sets January 2024 for 11th mission
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Dec 22, 2023
Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SPCE) has officially announced the opening of its 'Galactic 06' flight window on January 26, 2024. This mission will mark the company's 11th spaceflight, following a year of remarkable achievements in human spaceflight, including six suborbital missions in just six months. The upcoming 'Galactic 06' flight is set to continue Virgin Galactic's pioneering journey into space tourism. This mission will feature four private astronauts, hailing from diverse backgroun ... read more

From the Moon's south pole to an ice-covered ocean world 2024 will be a major year in space

Major Milestones Achieved Through the ISS National Lab in 2023

Designing the 'perfect' meal to feed long-term space travelers

Russia, NASA agree to continue joint ISS flights until 2025

InRange to enhance global launches with Viasat and Safran partnership

SpaceX successfully launches two rockets hours apart

ESA and IENAI Space unveil innovative electrospray propulsion for small satellites

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Successfully Launches USSF-52 Mission

NASA's Curiosity Rover Captures a Martian Day, From Dawn to Dusk

Sols 4045-4055: This Plan is STUFFED

Sols 4056-4058 Blog: "Ringing" in a New Year

Recent volcanism on Mars reveals a planet more active than previously thought

Shenzhou XVII crew conducts 1st spacewalk

Shenzhou XVII astronauts set for their first spacewalk

China's commercial space sector achieves milestones with series of successful launches

China's space programme: Five things to know

Ovzon 3 Satellite Launched Aboard SpaceX's Veteran Falcon 9 to Geosynchronous Orbit

Terran Orbital Reports Key Payment from Rivada and Strong Year-End Cash Position

First Batch of Starlink Satellites for Direct-to-Cell Service Launched by SpaceX

AST SpaceMobile nears funding milestone for cellular broadband in space

GESTRA space radar successfully enters final test phase

Above: Space revolutionary micro-g platform set for 2024 mission

Shining a light on NASA's deep space laser communication test

L-SAR 01 Satellite Group Begins Operations, Enhancing China's Disaster Response

A carbon-lite atmosphere could be a sign of water and life on other terrestrial planets

Is oxygen the cosmic key to alien technology?

Scientists discover new way to identify liquid water on exoplanets

Astrophysicists publish Kepler Giant Planet Search, an aid to 'figure out where to find life'

NASA's Juno spacecraft prepares for Jupiter moon Io close flyby

Jupiter was targeted by exoplanet hunter

The PI's Perspective: The Long Game

Webb rings in the holidays with the ringed planet Uranus

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.