Today's satellite propulsion systems cost upwards of $15MM, were designed before the first handheld calculator was invented, and are impossible to miniaturize to accommodate smaller satellites. Over the past five years, these small satellites have become increasingly capable, but are being launched without propulsion for pointing their antennae or cameras, reorienting themselves in orbit or relative to one another, or deorbiting at the end of their lifetime because of this technological void. The Accion team of MIT PhDs has designed and tested a novel satellite propulsion technology that not only outperforms the large systems in use today for a fraction of the cost, but is also inherently scalable, making it the first electric propulsion system suitable for small satellites. At the core of our product is our patented ion source that produces a beam of ions using strong electrostatic forces applied to a unique propellant called an ionic liquid.
Industry trends and the high level of interest the team has received indicate that such a technology has the potential to enable entirely new markets, revolutionizing the way we access, utilize, and commercialize space. Emerging applications for small satellites range from data analytics made possible by high-resolution earth imagery from low orbits, to disaster management and monitoring in developing countries, to journeys to distant planets for advanced science missions and to expand our understanding of our own planet.
Accion’s role in the approaching revolution of the $800MM propulsion market will be as a manufacturer and distributor of in-space propulsion systems for both small and large satellites. We’ve developed our system with manufacturing in mind from the beginning, and as a result can offer tremendous cost savings over current industry standards for large satellites—ion engines and Hall thrusters—by drawing from the semiconductor industry to implement batch manufacturing and outsourcing.