Lift-off: new thruster system in orbit

At 2 am on the 2nd of January, technology developed at the Research School of Physics lifted off aboard a Spacex rocket and was placed in orbit.

The Bogong naphthalene-based thruster has been installed in a nanosatellite, or cubesat, about the size of a loaf of bread.

The cubesat is one of a network of more than 200 being launched by Canberra company Skykraft with support from Boswell Technologies. They will monitor global air traffic, help develop more efficient travel routes and to prevent mid-air collisions and also address gaps in surveillance and communications across remote areas.

The team from the Space Plasma Power and Propulsion Group in the NPAA Department watched the livestream of the launch, as the rocket blasted off, achieved low-earth orbit and then finally set the tiny unit free into the vacuum of space 87 minutes after launch.

It was an exciting moment for RSPhys researcher and Technical Manager Dr Mahdi Davoodianidalik.

“When you see it detach from the SpaceX rocket and tumble into the darkness, that was really exciting for me.

“The equipment that I spent a year building is now in orbit,” he says.

The thruster’s success is due to its simplicity – using solid naphthalene fuel which sublimates directly into a gaseous propellant,  says Professor Christine Charles.

“It’s heating crystals of naphthalene, and opening a door or a valve. That’s it!”

“As long as you can control your valve, you have thrust,” Professor Charles said.

Read the full story at the ANU Reporter site.

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Dr Mahdi Davoodianidalik
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Updated:  31 March 2023/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPhys/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster