SSTL Developing Non-toxic Thruster ahead of Possible European Hydrazine Ban


PARIS — Small-satellite builder Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of Britain will develop a demonstration model of a peroxide-based satellite propulsion system under a U.K. government grant as European satellite builders confront a possible future European Union ban on hydrazine under chemical-safety rules, SSTL announced Jan. 8.

SSTL is leading a consortium that has received a grant award from Innovate UK, Britain’s science and technology stimulus agency to produce what SSTL said will be a “flight-ready concept” of a High Test Peroxide-based propulsion system by the end of 2016.

The entire project is estimated to cost some 490,000 British pounds, or $740,000, with Innovate UK contributing 290,000 pounds to fund the portion of the work conducted by the Open University as well as part of the work conducted by the other consortium partners. SSTL’s role, in addition to overseeing the development, will include developing a novel satellite propulsion unit valve that has been patented by the Open University.

Other consortium partners include TISICS Ltd., which will develop the fiber-reinforced aluminum composite HTP propellant tank; and European Astrotech, which will investigate HTP propellant materials options for future use in small satellites and test the demonstration unit.

The 28-nation European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations have targeted hydrazine, a common satellite propellant, as a substance that ultimately should be banned as environmentally hazardous.

REACH has been in vigor since 2007 but there is no fixed deadline for when satellite builders must stop using hydrazine. European regulators have said they will take account of the difficulty of finding replacements – and not wanting to undermine European industry’s competitiveness – before deciding on when to “sunset” the use of hydrazine.

“SSTL has identified HTP as an environmentally friendly monopropellant with the potential for providing the high performance required for future small-satellite missions,” the company said in a Jan. 8 statement.