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Norwegian Space Agency selects ThrustMe as propulsion provider to demonstrate just-in-time low-thrust satellite collision avoidance maneuvers

(27 April 2021 - ThrustMe) The Norwegian Space Agency and ThrustMe have completed a trial integration of ThrustMe's NPT30-I2 propulsion system into the NorSat- TD satellite.

During the mission, which is on schedule for launch in early 2022, both parties will demonstrate, amongst other things, just-in-time, low-thrust satellite collision avoidance maneuvers—a critical capability for acting on space situational awareness data and ensuring a sustainable space environment.

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Rendering of NorSat-TD (courtesy: UTIAS-SFL)

The NorSat-TD is the Norwegian Space Agency's technology demonstrator mission that will lead the way to Norway's maritime surveillance constellation. Onboard are six essential payloads and innovative technologies to be tested during the mission. One critical goal for the NorSat-TD project is to build up experience in Norway for propulsive satellite operations and ensure space safety by supporting the development of space situational awareness and traffic management systems for Norway's upcoming future missions.

"Norway is committed to safe and sustainable use of space, and the inclusion of ThrustMe's propulsion technology is a concrete action to enable avoidance of collisions and reduce space debris at the end of the mission life.", says Christian Haugli-Hanssen, General Director of the Norwegian Space Agency.

The iodine fueled NPT30-I2 propulsion system from ThrustMe was selected for its technical merits and relevance to the current and future Norwegian mission needs. Funding of the system was backed by the French space agency CNES, as an institutional partner to the mission. Additionally, the mission operations training and technical support provided by ThrustMe to the operators is fundamental to the mission objectives of building competence in Norway’s civil and industrial sector.

NorSat-TD has already passed its final design review. Currently the satellite bus is being built and the payloads integrated, with launch planned for the second quarter of 2022.

"ThrustMe's mission is to enable the growing space industry to remain sustainable while creating value on Earth and beyond. The NORSAT-TD mission will do exactly that. Getting the opportunity to assist the Norwegian Space Agency with our knowledge on how to prepare and operate a satellite with low thrust propulsion systems is extremely rewarding", says Ane Aanesland, CEO and co-founder of ThrustMe.

Fugro Norway is testing its sub-decimeter positioning payload, SpaceStar, on NorSat-TD. It will allow the Norwegian Space Agency and European Space Agency to follow the satellite's position in Low-Earth-Orbit with very high accuracy; SpaceStar is sensitive enough to measure the thruster's performance during transient propulsion periods for more accurate trajectory predictions. With SpaceStar and the onboard satellite laser ranging retro-reflector from SCF- Lab in Italy, the satellite provides multiple methods to track, predict, and verify its position. The ability to closely follow the satellite in real-time allows the operators to perform small safe test demonstration maneuvers, and test Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Space Traffic Management (STM) architectures.

“The NORSAT-TD satellite's propulsion capacity thanks to ThrustMe’s iodine propulsion system, and the suite of precise navigation payloads onboard, gives the mission key capabilities needed to demonstrate the main CREAM* functionalities, which currently are under development in the ESA Space Safety Programme”, says Tim Flohrer, head ESA's Space Debris Office.

CNES will also support the evaluation of the thruster performances and precise navigation payloads with accurate ranging measurements done from Nice optical geodesy station.

About ThrustMe

ThrustMe offers critical solutions for the growing space industry which is facing new challenges due to the rise of satellite constellations. As experts in in-space propulsion and satellite orbital maneuvering strategies, ThrustMe enables a future where space is used sustainably to create value both on Earth, and beyond. Founded in 2017, ThrustMe has a complete portfolio of game-changing turnkey propulsion products that have already been tested in space and delivered to clients worldwide. The company made history in 2020 with the world’s first in-orbit demonstration of an iodine-fueled electric propulsion system: a technology that has the potential to revolutionize the entire industry.

About the NPT30-I2

Named after the farthest known planet in our Solar System, Neptune (in short NP), the Thruster(T) can operate with a minimum power of 30 W (30) and using iodine (I2) as the propellant. The NPT30 is an intelligent, turnkey, electric propulsion system using solid iodine propellant and designed for the next generation of cost-capped and streamlined satellites sent into space on a ride-share basis. It provides the very high total impulse that these satellites need for deployment, significant orbit changes, collision avoidance maneuvers, and finally, end-of-life removal to reduce space debris and free up important operational orbits.

About the Norwegian Space Agency

The Norwegian Space Agency (NOSA) located in Oslo, Norway is a government agency under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. The Agency was established in 1987, when Norway became a member of the European Space Agency (ESA).

NOSA is responsible for organizing Norwegian space activities, particularly with respect to ESA and the EU, and for coordinating national space activities such as the NorSat-TD project.

About the NORSAT-TD satellite

NorSat-TD will host six IOD payloads from four nations; Norway, The Netherlands, France and Italy. Some of the missions include: 2-way VHF Data Exchange maritime communication, demonstrate a pseudo-constellation of VDES satellites. New CubeSat VDE-SAT terminal – Space Norway (Norway). Collect Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages from a high- performance CubeSat AIS/IoT receiver – Kongsberg Seatex (Norway). Demonstrate a robust optical laser communication with an experimental CubeSat terminal – The Netherlands Space Office/ TNO (The Netherlands). Perform collision avoidance and satellite operations with a new iodine ion thruster –ThrustMe (France). Support Satellite Laser Ranging with a new miniaturized reflector – SCF_Lab (Italy). Verify sub-decimeter augmented GPS positioning inreal-time with CubeSat receiver - Fugro (Norway) NorSat-TD is designed and produced by UTIAS-SFL and will measure 30 x 30 x 40 centimetres and weigh approximately 35 kilos, larger than the previous NorSat-1 and -2 satellites at 20 x 20 x 40 centimetres, weighing approximately 16 kilos.