Mission Will Demonstrate Just-in-Time Low-Thrust Collision Avoidance
The Norwegian Space Agency (NSA) and ThrustMe have completed integration of the latter’s NPT30-l2 propulsion system on the NorSat-TD satellite, scheduled for launch in 2022. The mission will demonstrate, among other things, just-in-time, low-thrust satellite collision avoidance manoeuvres – a critical capability for acting on space situational awareness data and ensuring a sustainable space environment.
NorSat-TD is NSA’s technology demonstrator 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 project is to build up experience in Norway for propulsive satellite operations and ensure space safety, by supporting development of space situational awareness and traffic management systems for Norway’s 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,” commented NSA General Director, Christian Haugli-Hanssen.
ThrustMe’s iodine-fuelled NPT30-I2 was selected for its technical merits and relevance to current and future mission needs. Funding of the system was backed by French space agency CNES, an institutional partner to the mission. Additionally, the mission operations training and technical support provided by ThrustMe is fundamental to the mission objectives of building competence in Norway’s civil and industrial sector.
“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,” observed Ane Aanesland, the company’s CEO.
Fugro Norway is testing its sub-decimeter positioning payload, SpaceStar, on NorSat-TD. It will allow the Norwegian and European Space Agencies to follow the satellite’s position with very high accuracy, and 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 Italy’s SCFLab, the satellite provides multiple methods to track, predict, and verify its position. The ability to closely follow the satellite in real time allows operators to perform small safe test demonstration manoeuvres, 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”, explained Tim Flohrer, Head of ESA’s Space Debris Office.