The next ESA CubeSat GomX-4B will be able to change its own orbit due to a compact thruster.
Measuring the size of a cereal box, the miniature satellite will travel close to its counterpart, testing radio communications. The team will analyze radio links at different distances, and test routing data between the two satellites and Earth-based systems. During the mission, ESA’s GomX-4B will travel a distance of 4,500 km (2,796 miles) from the Danish Ministry of Defense’s GomX-4A.
Thanks to NanoSpace, the specialized thrusters will enable the satellite to change its course by 15 m/s. In total, the design has two pairs of thrusters and pressurized fuel tanks. The “cold-gas” thrusters are built in a cost-effective manner and geared toward small-sized missions.
“The fuel is stored under pressure, then released through a tiny rocket nozzle. Even though it’s cold gas, we achieve a substantial velocity change by using liquid butane that turns to gas as it exits. Storing it as a liquid, like in a cigarette lighter, allows us to pack as many butane molecules as possible inside the small available volume—its liquid form being some 1,000 times denser than its gas,” says Tor-Arne Grönland, head of NanoSpace.
Although each thruster will output 1 millinewton, it will be enough to change the orbit of GomX-4B, weighing in at 8 kg (18 pounds).
“Compared to a typical half-tonne satellite with 1 N hydrazine thrusters, we are almost a hundred times lighter and a thousand times weaker. All of the elements such as the chamber, nozzle, and sensors are fitted into a 1 x 2 cm chip, just 1 mm thick,” says Grönland.
The team plans to launch GomX-4B, along with its near-twin GomX-4A, from China on February 2, 2018.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense