Thrusters, or in-space propulsion, are small rocket motors that form part of the satellite itself. They allow satellites to manoeuvre in space after their initial boost onto orbit. Thrusters serve several functions; they can perform corrective manoeuvres if a satellite has been delivered to an incorrect orbit, they can orientate a satellite, can be used for collision avoidance, and can carry a satellite further afield, for example to a higher orbit or on a mission to the moon or another planet.
“This in-orbit demonstration of our B20 product is the ultimate verification that our unique technology works,” said Stefan Powell, CTO of Dawn Aerospace. “It is now possible to have the performance that satellite manufacturers loved about Hydrazine, with none of the environmental and cost drawbacks of using toxic fuels.”
Using nontoxic propellants is naturally far less risky than using something like hydrazine, which is toxic at extremely low concentrations – 40 parts per million. Dawn’s green propellants are great for the environment, but can also save the satellite operator about half a million (USD) per satellite by eliminating the safety precautions required to store and handle hydrazine. “That’s massive for small satellite companies for whom a total mission might only cost one million dollars or less,” said Powell.