Apollo Constellation Engine Breakthrough Saves $250K Per Satellite

A complete ACE thruster unit being tested at The Aerospace Corporation. (Credit: Apollo Constellation Engine)

MOUNTAIN View, Calif., December 14, 2017 (ACE PR) — Today we are excited to announce a major breakthrough with our new electric propulsion system, Apollo Constellation Engine (ACE). Apollo recently tested ACE in an independent lab at The Aerospace Corporation where thrust, Isp, and system efficiency measurements closely matched Apollo’s own lab tests. These results showed that ACE has 3x better impulse per kg and 3x better impulse per liter than competing thrusters on the market today. These advantages can result in a launch cost savings of $250,000+ for satellite manufacturers.

“Satellite manufacturers are often constrained by mass or by volume,” said Apollo Fusion co-founder and CTO Ben Longmier, “On both metrics, ACE is unmatched.”

“The successful development and commercial delivery of a new high performance electric propulsion thruster such as ACE enables a whole range of capabilities and business models leveraging increased mobility of space platforms, and opening the door to another phase of innovation in space,” said Victor Aguero, Sr. Program Development Manager, SRI International’s Signals and Space Technology Laboratory.

SRI has delivered advanced satellite technology solutions to clients for decades, and is a thought leader in proposing how space will be used in the future.

Credit: Apollo Constellation Engine

“ACE enables satellite manufacturers to turbo optimize their system design”, said Apollo Fusion CEO Mike Cassidy. Traditional propulsion systems can occupy up to 30% of a satellite’s volume. But ACE is so small and light that manufacturers can now ask whether they want to add more revenue-generating payload or shrink the satellite to reduce launch costs. Or both.

“We are already working with many of the top satellite companies in the industry as this breakthrough makes a significant impact on their business,” said Cassidy.

What does this mean for the industry?

“Satellite costs are falling. Launch costs are falling. It’s a great time for this innovation to come to the propulsion system as well. We have dramatically reduced costs, volume, and mass,” Cassidy said. “The benefits to larger constellations can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars saved.”

Communication Satellite Constellations: With ACE, it’s now possible for communication constellation vendors to cut satellite system cost, cut launch costs, and get their complete constellation into orbit significantly faster.

Imaging Satellite Constellations: By allowing earth imaging satellites to fly at a lower orbit, ACE enables these satellites to double their resolution (and greatly increase their revenue) at one-fifth the cost of increasing their aperture size. ACE can maintain an imaging satellite’s altitude at 300-350 km for 5 – 7 years.

ACE cuts in half the cost of raising a satellite from LEO to GEO.

Tests at The Aerospace Corporation and Quanta Laboratories confirmed that ACE exceeds mission requirements for our customers. Vibration tests were based on 8 popular launch vehicles. A 100 hour lifetime test, with 400 stops and starts, simulated the first weeks of a mission. ACE has successfully operated using three different types of propellant and has operated using 185W to 800W of input power. Test results show an expected operational lifetime exceeding 4,000 hours.

About Apollo Fusion

Apollo Fusion is led by two rocket scientists, co-founders Mike Cassidy and Ben Longmier. Mike is a serial entrepreneur with four successful startups and was previously a Vice President at Google where he led Project Loon, a high-altitude telecommunications product. Ben holds advanced degrees in Physics, Nuclear Engineering, and Plasma Physics, was a professor at the University of Michigan, and was the founder and CEO of an aerospace company which was acquired by Apple. The team has over 100 years worth of Hall thruster experience.