SAN FRANCISCO – Bradford Space is updating its Comet electrothermal propulsion technology and transferring production of the small satellite thrusters from the United States to Luxembourg.
“The Luxembourg ecosystem allows more supportive financing of the venture of improving the technology, transferring the technology and building a facility,” said Patrick van Put, Bradford Space managing director.
Bradford Space gained the Comet propulsion technology when it acquired Deep Space Industries in 2019. At the time, New York-based Bradford Space, a firm with roots in Bradford Engineering B.V. of the Netherlands, opted to close the San Jose, California, facility where the propulsion systems were manufactured due to high costs.
Since then, Bradford Space has found a new home for Comet manufacturing in Luxembourg, where the company won the support of the Luxembourg Space Agency and funding through LuxImpulse, a national research and development program.
With that funding, Bradford Space plans to establish a facility in Luxembourg to manufacture an updated version of the thrusters for the global market.
By moving manufacturing to Luxembourg, Bradford Space also gains access to the European market,” van Put told SpaceNews.
Bradford Space is updating Comet technology “to improve the design and to make it more robust with a better lifetime and better performance,” van Put said. Once that work is completed the firm will conduct a design review of the new product before commencing manufacturing.
“We will get into the industrialization phase and be ready to deliver flight systems from Luxembourg in 2023,” van Put said.
Hawkeye 360 is Comet customer. LeoStella, the Spaceflight Industries-Thales Alenia Space joint venture, also installed Comet thrusters on Blacksky Earth-observation satellites.
Based on early success in orbit, one customer that Bradford Space does not have permission to name ordered a set of four Comet propulsion units, van Put said.
While Bradford Space establishes its new facility in Luxembourg, the company is satisfying current orders for Comet thrusters by producing them in the Netherlands “with the help of the Luxembourg team,” van Put said.
The first Comet thruster launched in 2018. Twelve Comet thrusters are currently propelling satellites in orbit, van Put said.