Take control of small satellite orbits

We make the new space revolution economically and environmentally sustainable

Electric propulsion made simple yet powerful

By combining ion thruster technology with techniques used for high precession etching in the semiconductor industry, we made electric propulsion as simple as possible yet with improved performances

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Emerging from the Ecole Polytechnique and the CNRS

After 10 years of applied research and 2M€ already invested, we provide a breakthrough and game-changing propulsion solution the small satellite market is longing to embrace

Small satellites is the future

ThrustMe is a sub-system provider and service company developing and commercializing a patented space propulsion system for the next generation satellites

ThrustMe gives small satellites increased possibilities in space

We allow our customers, who are typically satellite integrators and actors in the small satellite market, to take full control of the orbit of small satellites enabling them to undertake amazing missions.

ThrustMe develops and commercialises breakthrough propulsion systems and added services. ThrustMe’s electric propulsion solution can provide the necessary thrust and high specific impulse to do high delta-V missions using only 5% of the satellite mass and volume, while still being able to carry out orbit transfers in just a few weeks. This is made possible by our patented technology allowing for extreme miniaturisation of the thruster with our smallest engine being 40% of the size of competitive ion thruster technologies yet having similar or even better performances. We provide a complete thruster module that fits into a one unit Cubesat, and we provide larger tailored engines for more advanced small satellites.

Ion thrusters are promising for SmallSats

BUT there are technological hurdles in miniaturization due to their need for a separate neutralizer and gaseous propellant – We solved this problem using clever, innovative solutions

CLASSICAL ION THRUSTERS

In an ion thruster, ions from a gas discharge (a plasma) are accelerated via static electric fields using a set of biased grids. This ion beam generates thrust and its high velocity ensures a high Isp and therefore low propellant consumption. To avoid beam stalling and charging of the spacecraft, the positive ion beam needs to be neutralized by electrons in the downstream space. This is achieved with a separate neutralizer. Power, typically obtained from solar panels, is fed to the various parts of the system via a power processing unit (PPU). The propellant, typically xenon, is fed into the gas discharge chamber and the neutralizer.

The classical ion thruster is illustrated in the video below. Courtesy of NASA Glenn Research Center.

OUR INNOVATIVE SOLUTION

Our solution is a novel ion thruster operating with solid propellant that combines technologies from the space and semiconductor industries. The acceleration grids are biased with radiofrequency (RF) voltages across a capacitor. Due to the different mass of ions and electrons the plasma acts as a diode and the capacitor charges up (self-biases). The resulting DC voltage accelerates ions continuously while electrons exit during a short period within the RF cycle. This leads to significant simplification and advantages over classical ion thrusters, while still keeping similar or even better performance. The use of a solid propellant with a high vapor pressure (such as iodine) removes the need for high pressure storage and complex valves for flow control.

ThrustMe's low power neutralizer-free ion thruster

Our patented solution solves a number of key problems

The Neutralizer
The neutralizer is a fragile and expensive element that is difficult to downscale due to both limitations in the minimum physical size and the minimum delivered electron current. In our technology we do not need one since both ions and electrons exit from the same plasma source.
Control of the space charge
The current from the ion beam (gas discharge) and the neutralizer is difficult to match and results in charging and ion back scattering. The capacitive nature of the acceleration system ensures equal currents of ions and electrons, completely removing problems related to charging
The Power Processing Unit
Power Processing Units (PPU) in classical systems are large, heavy and complicated due to the need for several DC amplifiers in both the gas discharge and neutralizer channels. Since we only use radio frequency power, the PPU is simpler and smaller because no High Voltage DC amplifiers are needed.
Gaseous propellant
Classical plasma based thrusters use xenon as the propellant gas. The cost of xenon is not such a problem for small systems, but both the plasma source and the neutralizer need complex and expensive gas flow regulation and the propellant is stored under high pressure in bulky containers. This is a large hurdle for miniaturization. We integrate solid iodine propellant in our system. Iodine has very particular properties. It has a very high vapor pressure sublimating directly from solid to gas. Therefore, it allows for the use of a simple storage container that can take any physical form and a simpler flow control system.
Efficiency
The thrust per area ratio is limited by the space charge limit (Child’s law), or in other words by the maximum current that can be extracted across a set of grids. Using radio frequency acceleration, the space charge limit is increased twofold, and translates into larger extracted currents. Therefore, the thrust can be doubled for the same size due to a higher space charge limited current.
Plume-satellite interactions
Plume-satellite interactions are reduced using radio frequency acceleration, compared to the classical acceleration methods, due to the directed emission of electrons and therefore a highly collimated beam.

Meet the ThrustMe team

Ane Aanesland

Ane Aanesland

Co-founder and CEO

Ane Aanesland is a recognised expert in plasma physics and electric propulsion with more than 60 scientific publications. She likes “impossible” challenges and biked from Oslo to Rome in 21 days (2940 km), runs half-marathon in 1h42 minutes. Ane holds a PhD from the Arctic University of Norway.

Dmytro Rafalskyi

Dmytro Rafalskyi

Co-founder and CTO

Dmytro Rafalskyi is an expert in plasma physics and propulsion. He is the author of more than 20 scientific publications, 4 patents, and more than 40 conference contributions including 5 invited talks and lectures. Dmytro enjoys playing 5 musical instruments, building RC aircrafts and biking. Dmytro holds a PhD from Kharkiv National University.

Gautier Brunet

Gautier Brunet

COO

Gautier Brunet has more than ten years of experience developing aerospace systems from feasibility studies to operations, both in Europe and in the US. He has played rugby most of his life and has won the German Second Division Championship in 2013. Gautier holds Master’s degrees from Ecole Centrale, MIT and Harvard Business School.

Antoine Poyet

Antoine Poyet

Mechanical/Thermal Engineer

Antoine is an apprentice engineer for his Master in mechanical design and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. He joined the team already in January 2016. He enjoys both heavy metal and classical romantic French songs. Antoine holds a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering and a DUT in Machining.

Thomas Baret

Thomas Baret

Mechanical engineer

Thomas is a former engineer for Safran Transmission system, and joined ThrustMe in October 2016. Thomas has a glider’s license and is building his own quadcopter drone. Thomas has a Master of Engineering from IPSA.

Florian Marmuse

Florian Marmuse

PhD candidate

Florian has interned at CNES, ESA and NASA/JPL working on plasma propulsion or interplanetary nanosatellites. He graduated in physics and aerospace engineering from École polytechnique and ISAE-SUPAERO.

Houssem Laroussi

Houssem Laroussi

Electronics engineer

Houssem is a former Young Graduate Trainee at ESA. He is a squash addict, runs half-marathons and enjoys blogging about space, innovation and entrepreneurship. He holds a Master of Electronic Engineering from ISIB.

Javier Martinez-Martinez

Javier Martinez-Martinez

Fluidics Engineer

Javier has experience in research at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics and at the CNRS, working on planetary space entries. He enjoys running, extreme sports and writing in his free time. He holds a double Master in Aerospace Engineering from the UPM in Spain and the ULg in Belgium.

Trevor Lafleur

Trevor Lafleur

Plasma Physics Expert

Trevor is a renowned scientist in plasma physics and electric propulsion with a background as an aerospace engineer. He joined ThrustMe in September 2017, after more than 5 years at the Laboratory of Plasma Physics. Trevor will be working with us from Australia, and enjoys the sun and the kangaroos for the rest of us.

Stanislav Dudin

Stanislav Dudin

Radio Frequency Electronics expert

Stanislav is our external expert with us from Ukraine. He has an extensive experience in the design of plasma sources and radio-frequency electronics systems.

Spontaneous applications are welcome

You think we could use your competences, and you feel like joining us? Why not contact us before the job is announced!

Open positions are below.

Analog Electrical Engineer

Job description: Designs power and RF analog circuitry for new products as well as improves it in existing products. Tasks include analyzing, designing, simulating, prototyping, and testing circuitry used in our electric propulsion power processing units. Responsibilities include documenting designs, working with other engineering disciplines, and transitioning prototype designs to manufacturing. RF work experience is a plus, and general understanding of EMC is expected.

Job activities:

  • Perform power and analog electronic circuit analysis, design and simulation.
  • Participate in testing and integration tasks.
  • Develop models, simulate and verify designs, fabricate prototypes, and test hardware solutions.
  • Interface with PCB designer to translate layout to final fabricated boards.
  • Work to enhance the performance of existing circuits, subsystems, and products.
  • Work with other development team members, participate in design reviews, support integration and test efforts, evaluate product performance, and perform stress analysis.
  • Interface with manufacturing engineers in the design and validation of test equipment.
  • Create and maintain accurate and detailed design files.

Education and experience:

  • Master or PhD in analog electrical engineering (Radio-frequency is a plus)
  • Minimum 1-2 years analog circuit design experience with proven hands-on experience in amplifiers, impedance matching, filtering and power supply design.
  • Work experience in the space industry and/or radio amateur community is a plus, but not required

Soft skills:

  • We like passionate people that appreciate team work, with a capacity to think outside the box.
  • Good level in English is important and willing to learn French is a plus.

ThrustMe job -RF Engineer

Fluidics Engineer

This position is already taken, but we are considering increasing the fluidics engineering team and new applications are still welcome.

Job description: As part of the R&D team, you’ll be responsible for the hands-on design, development, and testing of the fluid systems for electric propulsion where solid iodine is used as propellant. This includes participation in the entire design cycle of fluid systems: system architecture definition, analysis of feasibility, integration and failure risks, modeling, test and mission support.

Job activities:

  • Design and modeling of iodine storage and flow system, including pressure, temperature and flow regulation
  • Experimental testing
  • Corrosion tests and development of corrosion mitigation procedures
  • Participation in space qualification procedure

Qualifications must have:

  • Master or PhD in fluid mechanics or similar
  • Good knowledge in physics of heat conduction
  • Understanding of phase transitions including sublimation
  • Basic knowledge in material science or chemistry
  • Ability to work in project mode and meet tight deadlines

Qualification good to have:

Soft skills:

• Experience solving a variety of complex problems using a combination of analysis and hands-on laboratory testing

  • Experience to work with standards (ECSS) and qualification tests (vibration, radiation etc.)
  • Appreciate team work
  • Passionate, curious and open minded
  • Good level both in English and French, to work smoothly in an international team

ThrustMe job – Fluidics engineer – full job description

ThrustMe’s Advisors

We are delighted and honored to be guided and backed up by so many brilliant and fantastic people

Jean-Jacques Dordain

Former Director General of ESA (2003 to 2015)

European partnerships and space strategy

Helene Huby

Former head of Innovation at Airbus DS

Helene is our business strategy advisor as well as one of our valuable investors.

Albert Meige

Entrepreneur and Enchanteur

We will be ready for Disruption, Innovation and Transformation with the expert knowledge from Albert.

Jack Fuchs

Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Stanford University

Jack has extensive experience managing and advising high-growth companies in the US and abroad and will help us better prepare for our entry in the US.

“Access to space and the digital revolution have both contributed to the economic and societal changes we are living today. In return, these changes are accelerating the demand for space and thus generating disruptions in space technologies and systems. Among those disruptions, ThrustMe is one of the most innovative and promising start ups in Europe”

Jean-Jacques Dordain

Let's have fun while getting there

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself

– Henry Ford