Home News Science Butane will be the fuel for the next ESA satellite

Butane will be the fuel for the next ESA satellite

Butane will be the fuel for the next ESA satellite

Sending nanosatellites into space is so cheap that even universities can afford it. There are already the first companies that rent nanosatellite services for specific tasks.

The novelty in the next miniature satellite of the ESA is its propulsion, the same that ignites a lighter, for example: butane.Thanks to this propulsion, for the first time, it will be able to change its orbit.


The goal is for the satellite, about the size of a cereal box, to fly around its twin brother to test its radio communications. Ready to be launched with its Chinese counterpart on February 2, GomX-4B is built from six CubeSat standard units of 10 cm.

Each propeller will provide only 1 milinewton , the weight you would feel holding a pen in your hand, but enough to move the 8 kilos satellite over time. Normally, the thrusters are triggered in pairs, although they can also work individually, for a few minutes at a time and up to an hour. According to Tor-Arne Grönland , director of NanoSpace:

The fuel is stored under pressure, then released through a small rocket nozzle. Although it is a cold gas, we achieve a substantial change in speed through the use of liquid butane that becomes gas as it exits. Storing it as a liquid, as in a cigarette lighter, allows us to pack as many butane molecules as possible within the small volume available, its liquid form is about 1000 times denser than its gas.


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