Busek Electric Thrusters Complete In-Space Commissioning on Lisa Pathfinder – Satellite Today

Lisa Pathfinder ESA

Lisa Pathfinder. Photo: ESA–C.Carreau

[Via Satellite 02-11-2016] Satellite propulsion company Busek has confirmed the successful firing of the company’s electrospray thrusters aboard the Lisa Pathfinder spacecraft. All eight of the electric propulsion devices on board the spacecraft successfully test fired along the satellite’s journey to Lagrange Point 1, located a 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 miles) from Earth.

Lisa Pathfinder launched in December 2015 aboard an Arianespace Vega rocket for a science mission to test the technology in space required for the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity. The spacecraft reached L1 on Jan. 22 and the U.K. Space Agency reported on Feb. 11 that the mission has detected gravitational waves in space for the first time.

Busek’s electric propulsion systems are the first of their kind to be operational in space. Developed under contract with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the thrusters provide the precision control necessary for the spacecraft’s science mission. The electrospray thruster technology has direct applications in spacecraft formation flying, laser communications, and CubeSat propulsion.

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