Launching a rocket is expensive, very expensive and adding weight to the launch makes it even more expensive, removing weight gives you options, either add more, different things, or take the saving.
Our first question was, what weight can we save? The answer is; guidance of the satellite once it is deployed. A potentially very complex answer to a simple question! To ensure that the satellite maintains its correct orbit it carries a payload of Xenon gas that is used as a common propellant due to several key properties; it is inert and has a high storage density, it is easily ionized and has a high atomic mass. These 4 points make it a very effective fuel source in spaceflight. Please read the article of NASA to find out more about the use of Xenon in spaceflight.
At the point of launch you need to carry enough gas to make a pre-calculated number of positional adjustments for 20 years. Of course if you miss-calculate the mass of gas needed then the satellite will effectively become redundant when the gas runs out. This is deemed as a critical failure due to the cost/usage ratio and will result in an incomplete payback for the people that own the time the satellite operates for.
Metering flows this low and this repeatedly is a challenge for many industries. You need:
- Low internal dead volume
- Precise physical gas flow modelling
- Consistent valve response
- Stringent manufacturing control
Delivering each of those points gives you the platform required to deliver instruments that can meet the performance demanded by the customer.
As the world turns towards Smart Manufacturing, Industrie 4.0 in Germany, the 4th Industrial age is upon us and so are certain needs; smaller, more accurate, less waste, big data and analytics all leading towards simple ways of doing things from a position of greater understanding.
With that knowledge being asked to help in the development of anything to do with the Space industry is an opportunity not to be missed, providing solutions to help map and determine efficiency.