SAN FRANCISCO – Accion Systems plans to supply miniature ion thrusters for Xplore Inc.’s 150-kilogram LEO Xcraft (XLEO) satellite scheduled to launch in 2023, under an agreement announced Aug. 10.
If successful, the flight would demonstrate the utility of Accion’s Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray (TILE) thrusters to move ESPA-class satellites into their desired orbits after launch and provide stationkeeping, collision avoidance and deorbit capabilities. (ESPA stands for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter.)
“The length of the XLEO mission and the ability to observe TILE’s performance over several years make this mission even more attractive because the thrusters will fully be exercised through a typical multiyear smallsat mission,” Accion CEO Peter Kant said in a statement.
To date, Accion TILE thrusters have flown on cubesats, including the NanoAvionics D2/Atlacom-1 and OQ Technology’s Tiger-2 cubesat launched June 30 on the SpaceX Transporter-2 rideshare flight.
Accion has not yet shared information on the performance of its TILE thrusters in orbit.
“We are still waiting for in orbit testing,” Natalya Bailey, Accion co-founder and chief technology officer, told SpaceNews Aug. 6. “In about 10 days we should start our operations.”
With XLEO, Xplore is offering Space as a Service.
“By flying with Xplore, Accion will obtain valuable flight experience to accelerate the development of their next generation TILE thrusters, putting them through their paces over the multiyear lifetime of our mission,” Lisa Rich, Xplore founder and chief operations officer, said in a statement. “In addition to providing Accion with critical data from the in-space tests, this cooperation also gives Xplore the opportunity to evaluate the use of the thruster for our future customers and missions.”
With XLEO, Xplore is offering hosting services for various payloads. The XLEO satellite equipped with Accion thrusters also is expected to carry commercial Earth-observation instruments for operational applications.