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February 18, 2021

Earth Observant Inc. Successfully Tests Next-generation Propulsion Technology to Support Future Very Low Earth Orbit Missions

Earth Observant completed tests of a pioneering Hall-effect thruster at the US Air Force Research Lab’s vacuum chamber facility at Edwards Air Force Base over a period of two weeks. The HET-X Thruster uses traditional EP fuel sources and a new, undisclosed propellant solution that is low-cost, non-toxic, and widely available.

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Earth Observant Inc. (EOI) successfully completed a series of tests on its internally developed Hall-effect thruster that introduces new propellant types while maintaining thruster efficiency and minimizing erosion. This technology supports EOI’s core mission of operating a Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) constellation of Earth Imaging satellites to deliver ultra-high resolution image data.

EOI’s proprietary electric propulsion system glows blue during vacuum chamber testing at Air Force Research Lab’s facility (SPEF) at Edwards AFB in December 2020.

The HET-X Thruster combines powerful new technology, including magnetic shielding with a center-mounted cathode, a unique thermal cooling design and an effective propellant management system, in a unit weighing less than 2 kilograms (kg). The preliminary test results conducted in a vacuum chamber show sustained power input levels between 350 – 2500 watts with thruster output recorded between 20 – 140 millinewtons and specific impulse between 1300 – 2200 ISP.

This propulsion technology enables crucial satellite operating maneuvers, including drag makeup, orbital plane changes, upper stage payload ferrying, and controlled deorbiting. The potential system-wide benefits of incorporating new propellant types and other design improvements include cost reduction, elimination of high-pressure storage vessels, and use of in-situ propellants during operations.

“This successful test series is an important step in the development of the HET-X Thruster and brings us one step closer to producing a commercially viable VLEO satellite,” says Christopher Thein, CEO of Earth Observant Inc. “We also foresee other organizations finding value in this innovative thruster technology for enabling in-orbit attitude adjustments, constellation spacing and alignment, and safe deorbiting of their own satellites.”