Stationkeeping, stopping satellites sinking.
One detail that was not clarified in the initial publications and received significant attention on the first Reddit post was the stationkeeping method required to operate a propulsion swarm and maintain the orbital position. This was briefly explained in an earlier post on The Physics Of Multivector Additive Propulsion but a dedicated post will help clarify the method. This is to establish confidence in the conceptual design and address the shortcoming of the earlier communications prior to wider audience engagement.
The first business goal is recruitment of good electrical & aerospace engineers and an astrophysicist to independently validate both the conceptual design and Mk.0 satellite design. Provided the conceptual design is functional, the system will be constructable at some point and any inadequate components can be improved to meet the requirements. Numerous technical details of the propulsion and power system are not detailed publicly to preserve H. Industries first mover advantage however explaining the stationkeeping method is critical to system and scientific integrity.
Stationkeeping is a basic requirement of satellite operations, maintaining the satellites distance from Earth and orbital speed. H. Industries swarm design of layers of small propulsion satellites pushing a larger cargo mass outwards means there must be an even greater opposing force to keep the swarm base layer in orbit. It is critical to maintain the swarm in a relatively fixed orbital location to ensure smooth flight planning however the targeting and cargo arrival systems allow for a degree of variance.
If the swarm of satellites with low individual inertia is intent on pushing a shipping container with high inertia, an offset force will be required to keep the satellites in place and move the container. By linking each satellite in the layer together with electromagnetic tethers, a mesh is formed that acts as a single body with the requisite inertia. The mesh of electromagnetically linked satellites in each layer allows the offset force required by the central units under the cargo to be spread across the structure. Using a square pyramid design this means that every satellite is supported by four beneath it. This acts in the same manner as a wide kitchen shelf supporting a heavy cooking pan by spreading its weight to the nearby support beams. The swarm architecture of small units acting together in distinct bodies results in a lower offset force per satellite required.
A fuel based thruster assembly is mounted in the bottom of each satellite and when triggered in concert with surrounding neighbours in the base layer, will equalise the total force of the system and maintain the swarms orbital context. The thruster fuel will be consumed over several launches however cycling of the expended satellites into non-anchor roles in the higher layers means the unit can continue to serve the swarm in an EM specific role. The precision timing required for the order of force application in these manoeuvres is addressed by electronic detonator software and blast modelling from the founders experience in the mining industry.
The launch pulse and system retraction have to be quick, requiring high energy pulse magnets and enough power to be pulsed several times through one launch cycle. Speed is key, extending the structure outwards during launch (into a higher orbit) inevitably has the lower layer move out of alignment from underneath it due to the change in rotational velocity. The launch/offset then reset are a tightly coupled process to ensure this design is functional, reusable and no satellites (or cargo) get left behind.
The launch profile and mechanics are set based on cargo safe acceleration limit classifications which determine the stationkeeping offset requirements. H. Industries is targeting a 2000kg payload on a ~1.88y/3.76y trip time, allowing the swarm to target Mars’s current orbit location for arrival in a later orbit.
While this business may be well in advance of its time, there are numerous customers that already have products usable on Mars. This could transformationally change the space industry by solving both orbital entry and interorbital transport together cheaply prior to 2030. Ten years of shipping containers and supplies transferred between orbits could create sustainable habitation in space or on Mars by 2040.
Let’s get to Mars then stay there, not just visit for the weekend.
Thanks for reading,
Angel donations help to continue startup activities and research!
For any enquiries, please reach out to: email@example.com