Within 48 hours of their first meeting at the SmallSat Symposium, Aurora Propulsion Technologies signed a contract to send a cubesat on a Momentus Vigoride mission. Credit: SpaceNews/Debra Werner

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Finnish startup Aurora Propulsion Technologies signed a contract at the SmallSat Symposium to fly a deorbiting technology demonstration on a Momentus Space Vigoride mission.

Aurora plans to send a 1.5-unit cubesat into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December 2020 before riding with Momentus’ Vigoride service to sun-synchronous orbit.

The Aurora cubesat will demonstrate water-fueled resistojet thrusters to provide attitude and altitude control as well as the Plasma Brake Module for deorbiting, Aurora CEO Roope Takala told SpaceNews.

The Plasma Break Module includes a tether thinner than a human hair and about 500 meters long that creates drag through its interaction with plasma in the upper atmosphere, said Perttu Yli-Opas, Aurora chief technology officer.

Momentus executives said they are eager to assist Aurora with the Plasma Brake demonstration because the module could appeal to customers seeking to speed up satellite reentry.

“Once Aurora demonstrates how their Plasma Brake deorbiting technology works in space, Momentus can use it on our vehicles and offer it as a service to our customers,” said Negar Feher, Momentus vice president of product and business development. “We would not only be the taxi service but also the deorbiting service.”

While Aurora’s Plasma Brake has not flown in space, similar technology was tested on two Finnish Meteorological Institute missions. During those tests, the miniature tethers did not deploy correctly. As a result, Aurora redesigned the deployment mechanism, Takala said.

Aurora plans to sell its Plasma Brake Module to customers who need to move satellites with mass of 1,000 kilograms or less out of orbits as high as 1,000 kilometers.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...