An engineering professor’s new technology could soon be used to blast satellites around Earth’s orbit.
Michael Keidar, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and his research team figured out how to use plasma thrusting technology to direct small satellites that are usually very difficult to control in space and keep them in orbit, according to a University release.
GW leaders reached an agreement last month to lease the technology to Vector, a company that connects space start-up companies with projects launching into space, according to the release
“This will be real step forward to commercialization,” Keidar said in the release. “Our technology will be used in dedicated small rocket launches by Vector, a recognized leader in this field.”
As part of the agreement, Vector will develop the thrusters for use on satellites, while GW researchers will work on creating the next generation of the technology, the release states.
The new technology will be used in miniature satellites that are about 10 centimeters long on each side. The smaller satellites have gained popularity in recent years because they enable space exploration at a lower price tag than traditional satellites, the release said.
The thrusters convert titanium into plasma to propel the satellite. The plasma then moves and expands into a vacuum at high speeds to produce the thrust that helps the satellite stay in orbit, according to the release.
“Electric propulsion allows a very high degree of fuel efficiency for placing satellites into higher orbits or for maintaining satellite orbits from decaying due to atmospheric drag,” Vector CEO Jim Cantrell said in the release. “George Washington University’s technology is extremely flexible in its implementation and can be used in a variety of applications important to Vector.”