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Phase Four deploys the very first plasma propulsion programs

The Phase Four electric propulsion corporation flew the first-ever plasma thrusters on two space shuttle, which were part of the January 24 dedicated SpaceX rideshare launch. Phase Four stated its Maxwell plasma propulsion mechanisms were on two spacecraft out of 143 spacecraft deployed on the Transporter-1 flight. At the behest of its client, who is flying an operating mission but is still evaluating other experimental designs on such spacecraft, the firm refused to give the satellites’ name. The thrusters on such two satellites will be the first to fly in orbit, built by Phase Four, established in 2015.

In an interaction, Beau Jarvis, the firm’s chief executive, stated the company resisted a policy of rapidly building and flying a prototype show and then raising funds to develop a business plan. “What we chose to do was to ensure that everything we were creating was a real product which customers required,” he added. “It cost us additional time as we had to find clients and then build the stuff they wanted, but it reimbursed off for us,” Jarvis stated. Phase Four anticipates two to around four thrusters to be delivered every quarter this year, with about six to 10 deployed by the end of the year. The company, which currently has fewer than 20 employees, plans to recruit additional employees and scale up production, with a target of 10 to 20 for every quarter output.

Instead of standard electrodes, the Maxwell thrusters utilize radiofrequency technology to produce plasma, a strategy that the firm has argued is simpler and less costly to manufacture. The thrusters are ideally optimized for the “moderately powered” microsatellites, 50 to 200 kilograms in weight and 300 to 500 watts in strength, Jarvis stated. “You get the advantages of the electric propulsion when you reach such a power level that offers you moderate thrust as well as good efficiency,” he added. Maxwell is the most lightweight electric propulsion technique in its class, approximately the toaster’s size as well as weighing just 6 kilograms, the firm claims.

Phase Four focuses on new models of Maxwell, such as the potential to use propellants, which have typically been used for the electric propulsion, rather than xenon and krypton. These alternative propellants may be tightly packed, Jarvis stated, but pressure vessels are not needed. The firm is also designing models of the thruster with a higher power. “This first item, Maxwell, was essential since, in their satellites, the consumers we supplied it to are very constrained in terms of space, so they required something which was as compact as possible,” he added.

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