| Press Release

French and Chinese Space Start-ups Make History Together:
The First Iodine-propelled Spacecraft Successfully Tested in Space

Bremen, 19 November 2019 – only 15 days after the successful launch of the first ever iodine-propelled satellite, ThrustMe and Spacety announce that the first propulsive operations have been conducted.

After 10 intensive days in orbit, Spacety managed to complete the in-orbit commissioning of the satellite. It was time for the two parties, Spacety and ThrustMe, to test the I2T5 cold gas thruster for the first time.

We had planned to do the propulsive operations after all the other payloads had been fully tested, so in a 2-3 months’ time from now, but we didn’t have the patience to wait – it was just too exciting to test this historic system as soon as we could”, says Feng Yang founder and CEO at Spacety.

This thruster is a one-of-its-kind propulsion system, invented and developed by ThrustMe, and ifsuccessful it will open up a complete new area for the space industry; tiny satellites (known as CubeSats) will finally be able to do propulsive operations and bigger satellites will gain considerably in both complexity and cost of the propulsion system. ThrustMe’s founders have been working on this for years, their idea of using iodine as an alternative propellant in space was one of the drivers for them to create  the company. And they have not been alone, the whole electric propulsion community has been striving to develop propulsion systems with alternative propellants, and iodine has stood out as a potential game changer. In US, NASA together with established American companies and research institutions have spent a decade together with millions of dollars trying to develop propulsion systems with iodine as propellant, so has ESA together with many of the larger European space corporates.

Iodine has remarkable advantages compared to pressurized gases, but it has also new technical and quite difficult challenges. It is not straight forward - you cannot just replace the pressurized gas with iodine and think that it will work. We had to think outside the box, and we combined many fields of physics, chemistry and engineering to succeed”, says Dmytro Rafalskyi, CTO of ThrustMe.

The I2T5 is a cold gas propulsion system that we designed for CubeSats, however, it is also a subsystem for our ion electric propulsion product. So this technology demonstration we are doing together with Spacety is a big step for us - two birds with one stone”, says Ane Aanesland, CEO of ThrustMe.

This was such a big opportunity for us, we want to collaborate with Europe and if possible also with the US. We are so proud of what we managed to do in such a short time. It took us eight months from signing the contract to launching the satellites, and then only 15 days in space to get the first successful data. Speed is something ThrustMe and Spacety has in common, and for both parties this oes not mean low quality or high risk”, says James Zheng, VP of International business at Spacety The first firing of the I2T5 was performed 18th of November 2019 and had a duration of a few 10s of minutes. All subsystems reported correct operations and thus the commissioning of the thruster was successful. During the next firings the thruster will perform exact orbital maneuvers.

From the telemetry continuously transmitted by the I2T5, we have already got insightful knowledge about electrical, thermal and propulsive behavior of the system. I should say that we have been working on this project very hard over the last months and now we are very happy to analyze the first flight data and start optimizing our models to further improve the performances of the system. This is extremely encouraging for us to continue working on iodine!”, says Javier Martinez Martinez, lead flow dynamics engineer responsible for the I2T5 product development at ThrustMe.

About ThrustMe:
ThrustMe, founded in 2017, is a French deep-tech company in the space industry, developing, producing and selling a variety of smart space-propulsion systems for next generation satellites, as well as innovative systems for ground testing of space technologies. In 2019, ThrustMe commercialized 3 breakthrough products.

About Spacety:
Spacety Co., Ltd. (Changsha) is a privately-owned Chinese commercial space company, founded in 2016, and specializing in low-cost, high-performance and reliable nano/micro satellite platforms, and providing global satellite services. They already have an impressive track record with 15 successful satellite launches achieved to date.

About the mission:
The Dianfeng, or TY-15 or Xiaoxiang 1(08), 6U satellite is a technology demonstration satellite, built by Spacety. It is carrying optical and laser communication payloads to be tested, together with the one of its kind iodine cold gas propulsion system designed and built by ThrustMe. This is the first ever iodine-propelled satellite in history. The satellite was sent into space by a Long March 4B (CZ-4B) carrier rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China's Shanxi Province, on 3 November 2019 at 11:22AM (Beijing time). And the propulsion system was tested successfully only two weeks later.

About Iodine:
Iodine, often associated with everyday iodised table salt and an essential nutrient in our diet, is in solid state at room temperature and sublimate to gas at relatively low temperatures. Its physical and chemical properties have made this halogen a game changer for in space propulsion of the next generation satellites. It is much denser (4 times that of pressurized xenon), it is much cheaper (10 times or more), and it can be stored in non-pressurized containers.

About École Polytechnique

École Polytechnique, also known as L’X, is the leading French institution combining top-level research, academics, and innovation at the cutting-edge of science and technology. Its various undergraduate and graduate-level programs – Bachelor of Science, Ingénieur Polytechnicien (Master’s level program), Master’s, and PhD – are highly selective and promote a culture of excellence with a strong emphasis on science, anchored in humanist traditions. As a widely internationalized university, École Polytechnique offers a variety of international programs and attracts a growing number of foreign students and researchers from around the globe (currently 41% of students and 40% of faculty members).

École Polytechnique offers an exceptional education to prepare bright men and women to excel in top-level key positions and lead complex and innovative projects which meet the challenges of 21st century society, all while maintaining a keen sense of their civil and social responsibilities. With its 23 laboratories, 22 of which are joint research units with the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the École Polytechnique Research Center explores the frontiers of interdisciplinary knowledge to provide major contributions to science, technology, and society. École Polytechnique is a founding member of Institut Polytechnique de Paris.

Files to download

ThrustMe SpaceTy Press Release NOVEMBER 2019 EN-pdf

ThrustMe SpaceTy Press Release NOVEMBER 2019 EN-pdf

Press Release

Elena Zorzoli Rossi – experimental engineer at thrustme- working with iodine-jpg

Elena Zorzoli Rossi – experimental engineer at thrustme- working with iodine-jpg

I2T5 being tested-jpg

I2T5 being tested-jpg

I2T5 mounted onto TY15 satellite-jpg

I2T5 mounted onto TY15 satellite-jpg