Logo d'IonSat

Logo d'IonSat

IonSat is a propelled nanosatellite developed by students at the Ecole Polytechnique.

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In a nutshell

PartnersÉcole polytechnique, ThrustMe, CNES, Thales Alenia Space
Size6U (10x20x30 cm)
Number of students54
Launch estimated2024
Initial orbit300 km
Mission durationMinimum 12 months

Total estimated budget 1.4 M€

IonSat

IonSat

Very low orbit station keeping

The project aims to design, place and maintain a powered nanosatellite in low orbit. It is part of a growing interest in very low orbits, for their many advantages (reduced communication latency, better resolution, lower launch costs, etc.).

The satellite would be launched from the ISS and would descend to an altitude of 300 km. This descent is based on the aerobreaking technique, which consists of using atmospheric drag to slow down the satellite, by orienting the largest surface perpendicular to the trajectory to maximise the drag force.

Once at 300km altitude, the station-keeping mission begins. At regular intervals, the nanosatellite will begin a descent phase to reach a lower altitude of 10km. The flight will therefore be carried out in stages for a desired duration of 6 months: the mission will be extended in case of success.

Illustration of the planned mission plan for IonSat: representation of the average altitude in orbit as a function of time. The mission is considered a success after 6 months of station keeping, i.e. about three steps.

Illustration of the planned mission plan for IonSat: representation of the average altitude in orbit as a function of time. The mission is considered a success after 6 months of station keeping, i.e. about three steps.

All-electric platform

The propulsion system used is an NPT30-I2 ion engine supplied by ThrustMe. It operates with a power of up to 60W, which is very high for a nanosatellite the size of IonSat.

The NPT30-I2 Ion Engine, an electric grided thruster using Iodine as a propellant. Image ThrustMe

The NPT30-I2 Ion Engine, an electric grided thruster using Iodine as a propellant. Image ThrustMe

Managing to provide the necessary power is therefore a real challenge, which requires a precise study of the energy recovery capabilities of the solar panels, coupled with the use of the battery. It is also necessary to understand the consequences of such energy consumption, particularly from a thermal point of view: this requires a good capacity to evacuate the heat to avoid the malfunctioning of the components.

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Communications

Scientific papers

The Ionsat project has been the subject of a few papers by students at international conferences:

General communications