Dawn Aerospace has received a €1.4 million grant from the European Commission to aid in the development of their transformational ‘green’ in-space propulsion system.
Dawn will use the award to continue investing in hydrazine-replacement technologies. The propulsion system will be the same size and performance as a hydrazine-based system, but without the toxicity, supply chain, or regulatory risk. There is currently no other choice on the market that is gaining commercial traction to replace hydrazine, which was categorised as a substance of very high concern by the European Commission in 2011.
The grant was awarded by the European Investment Committee’s (EIC) Accelerator initiative, which assists creative European enterprises on their journey to greater commercial success.
Dawn Aerospace CEO Stefan Powell says the company’s goal is to build scalable and sustainable space technology that enables the next generation of space transportation.
The European Commission is considering banning hydrazine by classifying it within REACH — Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. According to a 2017 SpaceNews article, restricting hydrazine could lead to a €2 billion per year problem for the European space industry.
“As it currently stands, hydrazine is a major pain point for existing space users, and an insurmountable barrier for many would-be space ventures,” he says.
Dawn Aerospace co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer Jeroen Wink says with Europe preparing to ban hydrazine, now is the time to further develop this green technology. “We were recently awarded a project by the European Space Agency (ESA) where the central requirements of that tender were that propellants were REACH compliant and not hydrazine,” he says. “Green alternatives are now taking precedence.”
While other green alternatives to hydrazine have been proposed over the years, commercial traction has been limited due to high costs, performance and logistic limitations. Dawn is under contract to produce more than 200 thrusters this year for commercial clients. The company’s green bi-propellant technology is on track to become the second most prolific chemical propulsion type in orbit, after hydrazine.
Dawn’s expertise is leading to work on much larger spacecraft, including GEO satellites, GTO to GEO transfer vehicles, as well as lunar and Mars insertion systems. The company has secured contracts with several SmallSat constellation builders, including Blue Canyon’s X-SAT Saturn-class satellites, Pixxel’s hyperspectral imaging constellation and the Indonesian Space Agency’s (LAPAN) early-tsunami warning constellation. Bolly Inside