Satellites Could Soon use Water-based Propellers

Miniature satellites, known commonly as CubeSats, are gaining popularity at a very swift pace across a large number of applications. Propelling and maneuvering CubeSats has so far been one of the key challenges this system could face. Scientists from Purdue University are trying to change that, by adding a new type of micro propulsion system that can spray water to help control the satellite.

Low Cost Solution for Low Cost Satellites

Alina Alexeenko, one of the researchers and an Aeronautics and Astronautics professor over at Purdue University, stated that this innovation could impart a plethora of new opportunities in CubeSat utilization. There could be an increase in the number of CubeSats being used over the coming years, and this research is one of the many innovation attempts for safer and more controlled satellite capability. CubeSats are far smaller than conventional satellites and can be launched in groups to better perform tasks such as high resolution imaging and monitoring. The use of water based micropropulsion systems, as hoped by the scientists, could allow for a stronger level of control over their CubeSats. This could also enable a more streamlined way to implement constellation flying.

Impulse Propulsion is Key

According to Alexeenko, the water-based micropropulsion system will need to deliver very small bursts of purified water that can create a more comfortable and accurate manual operation of the miniature satellites. She also adds that since water would be the primary fuel being used, the CubeSats could replenish their stockpile of water from the frozen water reservoirs of Mars. The use of purified water also negates the chances of instrument contamination. The new system is named the FEMTA Thruster, or the Film-Evaporation MEMS Turnable Array.