Orbion Space Technology Solves Orbital Last Mile Issues

Dr. Brad King, CEO of Orbion Space Technology, was interviewed by Nextbigfuture. Brad King has two decades in the space field and many professional awards recognize his research contributions in propulsion. He has a Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, has served on numerous NASA, Department of Defense, and Intelligence Community advisory panels, and has published more than 100 papers on space propulsion systems. He is a past recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award from President George W. Bush “for innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology, and for the exceptional potential to shape the future.” In 2002, Brad founded Aerophysics Inc. This closely held company has delivered intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solutions to government customers from multiple agencies. He is currently a principal investigator on three satellite missions.

SpaceX and Spaceflight Industries will be providing ridesharing flights to place 10-100 satellites into orbit at one time. This is like dozens of people reaching a bus stop. Rocket companies will drop off the satellites in one location in one orbit. The satellites will need propulsion to reach their operating location. This is where Orbion Space Technology will help them. They will provide proven Hall thruster technology for fuel-efficient and lightweight propulsion to move satellites to the right orbit.

There will hundreds to thousands of smallsats put into orbit each year. Orbion will deliver hundreds or thousands of thrusters for satellites.

Orbion will be able to mass-produce proven hall thruster technology.
Orbion will be able to reduce the mass of satellite propulsion by 3 times while improving the imaging, lifespan, orbit control and re-entry.
they will have
Traditional testing takes 6 to 8 months before delivery. Orbion’s manufacturing approach aims to build and ship thrusters within just 6-8 days of order.
Hall Thrusters have about 1600 ISP which is four times more than chemical rockets.

Orbion can propel small satellites in the 100 kg range. These satellites are the workhorse applications and will have the largest growth in the next 5-10 years. The smallsat market is projected to exceed $62 billion by 2030.

12 thoughts on “Orbion Space Technology Solves Orbital Last Mile Issues”

  1. To be fair, almost all satellites need a power supply anyway just to function once they reach their desired orbit.

    So it may not be any extra requirement except a (vacuum and temperature tolerant) relay to swap between powering your satellite functions and powering your propulsion when required.

  2. What this expanded market will look like remains to be seen.
    SpaceX had 16 launches the first 10 months of 2018, 10 so far in 2019.
    2018 count includes the FH demo, 2019 includes starlink launch-not normal pay days.
    I recall someone thinking the launch market was going exponential just based on SpaceX’s 2018 rate increase over 2017.
    Everyone should temper their visions of “The Expanse” made manifest by asking yourself “Does the business model of my optimistic vision of space development make financial sense?”.

  3. So, thinking somewhat more critically than ‘high fives!’, let’s see. There is a certain glamorous disingenuousness to the infographics above. For instance, somehow it is calculated…

    For a 100 kg craft, INCLUDING the thruster and its fuel,
    47% of a conventional craft’s mass is thruster + monopropellant. 
    14% of a ion-propelled craft is thruster + propellant. 

    Yet, a little further down
    22 kg (22%) is the thruster + propellant for conventional
    7.5 kg (7.5%) is the ion thruster + propellant.  
    Neither of these match 47% and 14% respectively. 

    Then it started to occur to me, that perhaps the ionists are sidelining the other Big Mass they have to carry around, namely a POWER SUPPLY of some sort for the ion thruster.  

    Not so with monopropellant drives. 
    They just go, with the potential chemical energy stored in the monopropellant.  

    And what would be the power-block that’d produce power for oh, 22 years?
    Hmmm… if orbiting Urth, then SOLAR comes to mind. 
    Solar + lithium batteries. 
    Make it, store it, use it in whatever amounts needed, short of full-discharge.

    But solar requires panels of cells. 
    Panels require unfolding. 
    Unfolding requires springs, struts, stays. 
    All that requires weight. 
    Panels require positioning to face Sol. 
    And heat dissipation. 
    And wiring.  

    Just saying… conveniently forgetting the power supply is disingenuous. 
    GoatGuy ✓

  4. I can’t tell if they account for the added mass of the power system to support this propulsion technology. The mass savings in propellant, for small satellites, might be gobbled up by the added batteries, solar arrays and harness necessary to support a high power propulsion system.

  5. A 90 year life for the propulsion system only implies that it’s not going to be the limiting factor for the satellite life. I seriously doubt any satellite launched into Earth orbit today is still going to be in use 90 years from now. If only due to obsolescence.

  6. a tiny thruster for tiny thrusts… but, a satellite that last 90 years will kill the space launch industry…they will be down to 20 launches a year for the entire industry…

  7. The Fanuc robot arm implies a measure of assembly automation. You would only need that for big orders right now. So who are the customers then?

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