Portal Space Systems Unveils Sun-Powered, Agile Supernova Craft

Portal Space Systems Unveils Sun-Powered, Agile Supernova Craft

Portal Space Systems has developed a novel solar thermal propulsion system for its Supernova satellite bus, aiming to enhance satellite mobility in space. The technology utilizes a solar concentrator to focus the sun's heat on a heat exchanger, powering the satellite's thrusters. This propulsion system is designed to generate a significant change in velocity (delta-V) of 6 kilometers per second, allowing rapid maneuvers such as transfers from low Earth orbit to geostationary orbit within hours or to cislunar space in days.

The company has attracted over $3 million in funding from the Defense Department and the U.S. Space Force, supporting the development of the Supernova satellite bus. This funding aligns with the Pentagon's strategy for "Tactically Responsive Space." Portal Space Systems plans to conduct an in-space demonstration of the technology as early as next year, with the first flight demonstration scheduled for late 2025 or early 2026.

The 500-kg Supernova craft is payload agnostic, designed to operate in orbit for a minimum of five years, and capable of continuous maneuvering. Portal's technology could potentially be employed for various applications, including the removal of orbital debris and the rapid deployment of space assets in response to global threats. The company, founded by former executives from SpaceX and Amazon, aims to scale up to a workforce of 200 within the next 25 years, anticipating the production of multiple spacecraft per year following the demonstration flight.


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