Japanese space tech startup uses water as propellant for nano satellites, to keep them in orbit.
- Pale Blue to Showcase Water-Fueled Thruster for Nanosatellites That Extracts Ion Out of Water @CES Unveiled & CES 2023.
- Hybrid thruster combines the benefits of ion and vapor to dramatically extend satellites’ useful years and mitigate space debris.
Las Vegas, Dec 27, 2022 – A Japanese space tech startup, will showcase “PBI-HY-40,” an ultra-compact thruster that uses less than 250ml of water as propellant to keep nanosatellites in their orbits, dramatically extending their useful years in space and mitigating space debris. Conventional water-based propulsion systems aren’t viable for space use due to the low propellant efficiency and the quantity of water needed to generate steam. Pale Blue’s patented electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) technology enables the hybrid thruster to extract ions out of water on demand, combining ion’s excellence in propellant efficiency with the high thrust power of steam.
Designed specifically for CubeSats (minimum size: 10 x 10 x 10 cm) up to satellites of 500 kg, “PBI-HY-40”
can extend what normally are 1–3-year lifespans to 3-5 years or longer, guiding them back to Earth in the
end to prevent them from becoming “space junk.” Use of water as propellant in lieu of toxic materials
also makes the satellites’ production significantly safer.
“Nano-satellites prematurely lose their usefulness and become space debris simply because they didn’t
have engines to freely move around in space. Our technology enables installation on nanosatellites by
providing inexpensive, low-power propulsion and efficiently harvesting energy from a small amount of water – a clean, relatively inexpensive and abundant natural resource,” Pale Blue Co-founder & CEO Jun
Asakawa said. “By replacing the incredibly toxic propellants like hydrazine with water, we can make
space far more accessible to humans. We are thrilled to introduce this truly sustainable propulsion
technology at CES 2023.”
Features & Technology:
Culminating decades of research by the University of Tokyo, Pale Blue’s patented Electron Cyclotron
Resonance (ECR) technology enables on-demand generation of water plasma to fuel nanosatellites via a
miniature mechanism that doesn’t sacrifice strictly restricted envelope and power. Our envisioned use of the technology for in-space water refueling can potentially extend the useful lifespans of nanosatellites even further.
90 x 120 x 160 mm (dimension); 40 W (power input); 85 Ns | 735 Ns (total impulse).
4.0 mN | 150 μN (thrust); 60 s | 500 s (specific impulse).
Pale Blue is a space startup from the University of Tokyo founded in 2020. The company is dedicated to
thrusters’ innovation for small satellites that use water as a propellant. Through its water-based
propulsion technology, Pale Blue aims to develop a space ecosystem where in-space mobility is not only
affordable but completely safe to both humans and the surrounding environment.
Presented by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the “Japan (J-Startup) Pavilion @Eureka
Park” brings together the country’s innovative startups with proprietary leading-edge technologies. At
CES 2023, the pavilion will feature 36 companies in industries ranging from AI to robotics, space to
mobility, among others.
CES® is one of the world’s largest technology trade shows held annually in Las Vegas. Bringing together
2,279 exhibitors and 84,500 attendees between Las Vegas and online venues at CES 2022, the event is
billed as the “proving ground for breakthrough technologies and global innovators.” At CES 2020 held
prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 4,600 companies showcased 20,000 products and services.