Yuichi Nakagawa, Pale Blue co-founder and chief technology officer, shown with the Japanese startups small satellite propulsion technology at the 2023 Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah. Credit: SpaceNews Kim Raff

LOGAN, Utah – Japanese startup Pale Blue announced a contract Aug. 7 to supply water vapor thrusters for South Korea’s Yonsei University.

“With this contract we can expand our Asian connections and partnerships to collaborate more with India, Thailand and with other countries as well,” Emily Okuhara, Pale Blue manager of marketing and communications, told SpaceNews.

Pale Blue, a University of Tokyo spinoff founded in 2020, will supply Yonsei University with water vapor propulsion systems for a pair of six-unit cubesats. The cubesats are designed for a formation flight experiment that includes an optical communications demonstration.

“Our mission aims for demonstrating cutting-edge laser communication, orbital maneuvering and formation-keeping,” Sang-Young Park, a Yonsei University astronomy professor, said in a statement. “These thrusters perfectly meet our requirements and offer the advantage of being not only environmentally friendly, but also free from regulatory constraints.”

Pale Blue proved its Resistojet thruster in orbit for the first time in March on a Sony Corp. Star Sphere satellite.

Pale Blue plans to establish mass production of Resistojet thrusters to reduce the cost and lead time for potential customers in the United States, Europe and Asia, said Yuichi Nakagawa, Pale Blue co-founder and chief technology officer.

In addition to the Resistojet thruster, Pale Blue is developing an Ion thruster and a Hybrid thruster. The company’s Ion Hall-effect thruster is likely to reach orbit for the first time in 2024 or 2025, Nakagawa said.

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...

Miriam Klaczynska is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, pursuing a degree in the history of science, with a focus on aerospace technology. She is minoring in journalism and serves as the deputy opinion editor at Berkeley’s...