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3 mins read 28 Jul 2021

Australian National University Partners with ThrustMe

The Australian National University has announced a new partnership with French company ThrustMe to explore novel space propulsion technologies.

Plume from a prototype electrothermal plasma thruster. Credit ANU.

The Australian National University (ANU) has announced a three-year partnership with French company ThrustMe to investigate the potential role of electrothermal plasmas in space propulsion technology. This three-year partnership with ThrustMe, a pioneer in alternative propellants, may result in faster space manoeuvres and safer, more sustainable, propellants.  

"I am delighted to be able to collaborate with this vibrant new space company, enabling Australia to rapidly strengthen capability and expertise in space-related research,” said ANU researcher Associate Professor Cormac Corr.

"Through our combined expertise we have the know-how to push the boundaries of plasma technology into new industries."

This announcement comes after ANU was recently awarded a \$2.5 million grant from the Australian Space Agency to establish space testing facilities and their announcement that they are working on a propulsion system for small satellites that uses lasers

Electrothermal Plasmas for Propulsion

Exploring new propulsion technologies, such as that using electrothermal plasmas, could propel technology further than ever. Credit: NASA.

This partnership between ANU and Thrustme will examine how electrothermal plasmas could be used in propulsion technology. High-density plasmas produced by electric power can be used to heat propellant gas to very high temperatures before they are accelerated through a rocket nozzle.  

"The right propellant is important not just for performance, but also for factors related to safety and sustainability," said Ashley Pascale, an ANU PhD student working on the new project. 

"My research into electrothermal plasmas at the ANU School of Physics in collaboration with ThrustMe will potentially have many interesting applications including satellite constellation deployment, rapid collision avoidance and even the simulation of space environments here on Earth to test satellite components and materials."  

ThrustMe

One of ThrustMe’s main goals is sustainability. Credit: ThrustMe.

"We are very happy to be able to work with a world-class institution like ANU on this exciting project. Leveraging our combined plasma physics and space expertise will help to develop innovative new plasma systems to meet emerging space-based, and ground-based, market needs," said Principal engineer at ThrustMe, Trevor Lafleur. 

ThrustMe's CEO and founder Ane Aanesland, a former ANU postdoctoral fellow said, "Australia is quickly emerging as a space nation with a flourishing ecosystem of new space companies and an excellent research infrastructure.”

"We already have a foot on the ground, and our collaboration with the ANU is a first step in expanding into the Asia-Pacific region and helping to contribute to the rapidly growing Australian space industry."