The French start-up Exotrail has taken a decisive step in its development by validating its electric propulsion system for small satellites in space three years after its creation, a step which opens up a booming market. This demonstration carried out in December “Allows it to validate in operational condition products designed to address the market for small satellites from 10 to 250 kilograms”, she explains in a press release. This market has exploded in recent years thanks to the development of satellite constellations.
The company builds electric thrusters based on so-called Hall effect technology, which have been used on large satellites for twenty years, but “ the size of a fridge “, according to its co-founder David Henri. Exotrail a “Designed, assembled, tested and delivered in ten months” thrusters weighing only 1.8 kilograms and consuming less energy when its Chinese or American competitors are designing larger engines that have not yet flown, he told AFP.
18 million euros raised
The launch on board the Indian rocket PSLV had to wait ten months before being able to take place in early November due to the pandemic. This mode of propulsion notably enables the satellite to be able to change orbit quickly, to avoid collisions and to “desorb” it at the end of its life in order to avoid space pollution. These thrusters also allow the satellite to reach its orbit more quickly (two months against ten) and therefore to generate revenues more quickly.
The company also validated its thruster control software during this flight. Created in 2017, Exotrail, which raised 18 million euros, signed its first contracts in 2020 for a total amount of one million euros, in particular for the future constellation in low orbit of the European operator Eutelsat, the French and European space agencies (Cnes and ESA) or the French Space Command. It has 30 employees and intends to increase to 50 by the end of the year.