• Transatlantic Mission to advance Space Tech
    Richard Dinan
  • A Hall Effect Space Thruster, built in the UK by Pulsar Fusion undergoing testing at the University of Southampton

News & Views

Transatlantic Mission to advance Space Tech

Oct 09 2023

The UK Space Agency is providing funding for a UK/US research project for development of electric propulsion technology – specifically Hall effect thrusters - as a key technology enabler for spacecraft.

The partnership brings together the expertise of the leading University research centre in Hall thrusters in the USA -the Plasma dynamics and Electric Propulsion Lab at the University of Michigan - with leading Hall Thruster companies Pulsar Fusion (UK) & Starlight Engines (US), along the University of Southampton (UK).

NASA has identified a strategic need over the next decade for electric propulsion, in particular in the field of high-power electric propulsion and propellants.

Hall thrusters are finding application in a vast array of different spacecraft missions, including geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions. This includes robotic rendezvous missions such as those developed by Northrop Grumman and Astroscale, in particular for spacecraft de-orbiting and interplanetary missions such as the Lunar Gateway Space Station and the NASA Psyche mission.

Until now, there has been no such collaborations between the UK and USA on Hall thruster research and the new partnership will enable the UK to benefit from world-leading US research and development.

The project will be funded from the first phase of the UK Space Agency’s £20 million International Bilateral Fund. It is the second project awarded to Pulsar Fusion by the UKSA(1)

Pulsar Fusion CEO Richard Dinan said: "As a manufacturer of space engines, there are regulatory challenges in being based in the UK, but England does have a fantastic talent pool and our scientists deserve to be at the forefront of these emerging technologies.

"This is another key US partnership for Pulsar - we continue to pursue best-in-class innovation, and this is particularly exciting given the global commercial interest in these engines. Following last month’s announcement of our work with Princeton Satellite Systems, we remain optimistic that companies like Pulsar can continue to advance our technologies whilst remaining in the UK with access to unparalleled scientific resources."

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