New all-electric thruster draws 'limitless power from the Sun'

The IVO Quantum Drive enables "cost-effective and fuel-independent spacecraft".
Chris Young
A stock image of a satellite.
A stock image of a satellite.

imaginima / iStock 

North Dakota-based firm IVO Ltd., a leading developer of wireless power technologies, will send an all-electric propulsion system for satellites to space for the first time in June.

The system, called the IVO Quantum Drive, will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of the rideshare mission Transporter 8.

The company hopes to perform a successful demonstration of the satellite propulsion system in low Earth orbit (LEO), with a view to commercializing the technology.

New Quantum Drive provides "limitless power for propulsion"

Since it was founded in 2017, IVO has been developing a wireless energy transmission technology called Capacitive Based Aerial Transmission (CBAT). CBAT's wireless transmission technology allows operators to reduce their battery sizes by 50 percent, enabling a whole host of new innovations.

In an effort to tackle the space industry's massive carbon footprint, IVO also set out to build a pure electric thrust system for spacecraft. Their efforts led to the IVO Quantum Drive, which the company claims is the "world’s first commercially viable and available pure electric propulsion technology to achieve legitimacy via thermal vacuum testing."

The technology is much more efficient than conventional rocket systems, according to IVO. The company claims the IVO Quantum Drive can achieve up to 52 millinewtons (mN) of thrust from a single watt of electricity. The energy, meanwhile, will be supplied via a mixture of onboard power storage and solar power.

As Universe Today points out, this is a big improvement over Hall-Effect thrusters, also known as ion engines. Ion engines can achieve between 25–250 mN of thrust, though they have lower energy efficiency (65-80%), and require more power – typically between 1–7 kilowatts (kW). Weighing in at roughly 300 grams, the IVO Quantum Drive also weighs a fraction of the mass of a typical ion engine, which can weigh up to 200 kilograms.

Using the new method, IVO says its Quantum Drive removes the need to refuel or deorbit due to fuel limitations, as it draws "limitless power for propulsion from the sun". All of this is, of course, dependent on successful tests in orbit for the experimental, alternative thrust technology.

"A milestone for the future of space propulsion"

The IVO Quantum Drive has already been successfully tested in vacuum chambers on Earth, and now it is on the verge of going to orbit. Once there, the IVO Quantum Drive will be deployed aboard a Rogue Space Systems satellite for its first big space test.

"Quantum Drive’s small size and big capabilities helps us develop incredibly efficient, lightweight, maneuverable, fuel independent and most importantly cost effective spacecraft," Brent Abbott, chief business officer at Rogue Space Systems explained in a press statement.

"Deploying Quantum Drive into orbit in a Rogue satellite on SpaceX Transporter 8 is a milestone for the future of space propulsion," added Richard Mansell, CEO of IVO Ltd. "Quantum Drive’s capability allows Rogue to produce new satellite vehicles with unlimited Delta V."

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