Apollo Fusion gets awarded York Space Systems’ electric propulsion order

Apollo Fusion gets awarded York Space Systems’ electric propulsion order

Apollo Fusion revealed on January 26 that it had won a contract for a package of the satellite electric propulsion systems from York Space Systems. Apollo Fusion stated it would supply its ACE (Apollo Constellation Engine) electric propulsion system with at least ten satellites for the low Earth orbit constellation that the York is developing for deployment in 2022. The firms did not announce the constellation, but in August 2020, York secured a Space Development Agency deal to supply communications services for ten satellites expected to be deployed in 2022. In an interview, Mike Cassidy, who serves as Apollo’s chief executive, stated the York Space Systems order is the fourth client for the Hall Effect thrusters of Apollo.

Other clients comprise Saturn Satellite Networks, which will be using the thrusters on the tiny geostationary orbit satellites that it is building; the Sherpa space tug from Spaceflight; and the United States Air Force, which will operate it on an undisclosed spacecraft with intelligence. Apollo already has firm requests from those 4-customers for over 20 propulsion systems, he stated, but if those buyers exercise contract options, it might expand to’ on the order of 200.’ For up to 2,000 additional thrusters, the organization has submitted plans. Cassidy is adamant that if it wins a significant fraction of those requests, the company will satisfy the demand. “Our business strategy from the first day was to distribute constellations of propulsion systems,” he said that it was simple to build, with a “Silicon Valley-like” strategy to rapid iteration as well as a thruster design.

The solution also depends on a manufacturing partner capable of supplying vast quantities of thrusters. Cassidy refused to call the firm but said it manufactures other parts for businesses like Northrop Grumman as well as Raytheon. “It is insignificant for them to do ten units every month or even 100 units every month,” he added. Entry to vacuum chambers required for acceptance evaluation of the completed thrusters is the key bottleneck to development. That production capability has helped the business win its deals. “We’re good at efficiency and great at cost, but, honestly, it’s the production component that’s won the contract for us,” he stated.

Apollo Fusion is pursuing research on the thruster designs and production. Two ACE models are currently being sold by the firm: one which uses 400 watts of power as well as the other 1,400 watts. To minimize corrosion of thruster modules from the plasma, the higher-power thruster integrates electromagnetic shielding. Cassidy stated, “Before you weaken the edges of the thruster, you can run out of fuel.” The thruster with the lower power is lighter, but the electromagnetic shielding is lacking. To improve its life cycle, the organization is upgrading the design. He stated some buyers are looking for a “hybrid” of the 2-designs, one of which is more powerful but still smaller.