Iodine engine can slow space debris accumulation

A small but potentially useful innovation could help clear the sky of space debris,

allowing tiny satellites to cheaply and easily self-destruct at the end of their mission, heading into the atmosphere where they burn up.

Such a technology using fuel basediodine can also be used to extend the lifespan of small CubeSats that track, for example, the health of crops on Earth or entire mega-constellations of nanosatellites that provide global Internet access by raising their orbits as they begin to drift towards the planet.

The technology was developed by ThrustMe, a subsidiary ofby École Polytechnique and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), supported by ESA through the Advanced Telecommunication Systems Research (ARTES) program.

The technology uses a new fuel - iodine - inan electric motor that controls the satellite's height above the Earth. Iodine is cheaper and uses simpler technologies than traditional fuels. Unlike many traditional rocket fuels, iodine is non-toxic and remains solid at room temperature and pressure. This makes it easier and cheaper to work on Earth.

When heated, it turns into gas without passingthrough the liquid phase, making it ideal for a simple propulsion system. In addition, it is denser than traditional fuels, so it occupies less space on board the satellite.

ThrustMe launched its iodine engine oncommercial research nano-satellite SpaceTy Beihangkongshi-1, which went into space in November 2020. It was tested earlier this month before being used to change the satellite's orbit.

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Kubsat - the format of small artificial satellitesLands for space exploration, having dimensions of 10x10x10 cm with a mass of no more than 1.33 kg. The creation of cubesats became possible thanks to the development of microminiaturization and the use of general industrial microelectronics to create space satellites.

The European Space Agency is an international organization established in 1975 for the purpose of space exploration