Pale Blue Inc. (headquartered in Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture; Jun Asakawa, President; hereinafter “our company”) has been selected by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (hereinafter “NEDO”) to implement the “SBIR Promotion Program” for the 2022 fiscal year, and has begun research and development under this project. We will develop the underlying technologies for water propulsion systems (ion engines) for small satellites used in mega-constellations. By developing a propulsion system that uses “water” as a propellant, which is safe non-toxic and has low handling costs, we provide mobility for the small satellite constellations that are the core of the space industry.
SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) is a program that supports R&D oriented startups that contribute to solving social issues and promote both creation and innovation. The SBIR Promotion Program under NEDO is part of the “Japanese SBIR System,” which is an initiative implemented by the Japanese government across multiple ministries and agencies.
R&D Theme: Technical Development of Water Ion Engines for Small Satellite for Mega Constellations
In recent years, the space industry has been growing, especially with the emergence of diverse satellite services such as earth observation and high-speed optical communications. Among these services, satellite constellations (clusters of multiple small satellites working in coordination and collaboration) have become the core of the industry. To achieve this, engines for orbit transfer and attitude control of satellites are important, but until now there have been no safe and relatively inexpensive engines for small satellites that provide sufficient propulsive power.
Therefore, this project aims to develop elemental technologies for thrusters, including an ion source, neutralizer, high-voltage power supply, and innovative thermal designs to realize a low-cost ion engine using water as propellant that is safe and easy to handle and can be installed in a 100 kg class small satellite. Our company will develop a more advanced propulsion system using the technology acquired through this project and provide mobility for a constellation of small satellites in the 100 kg class.
Name: “SBIR Promotion Program” for FY2022
Summary: Aims to solve social issues and strengthen Japan’s industrial competitiveness by supporting research and development activities conducted by startups.
R&D Project No.: 3. Technology development contributing to industrial development and strengthening international competitiveness promoted by private space activities.
Period: Until August 2023
Adoption Phase: Phase 1
SBIR Promotion Program Adoption Page: (Japanese only) https://www.nedo.go.jp/koubo/CA3_100360.html
Pale Blue is a space startup company founded in 2020 by the University of Tokyo. Pale Blue is engaged in the technological development and social implementation of propulsion systems (engines) for satellites that use water as a propellant. By using water, a safe and abundant resource, as a propellant, Pale Blue will bring about technological innovation in propulsion and build the next-generation space mobility infrastructure.
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