From its humble beginnings in Somerset West, South Africa; Hypernova Space Technologies has developed a unique propulsion technology for satellites that could change the face of space travel as we know it. A system that will one day allow satellites to refuel in space – using space debris! And potentially even enable the mining of space resources.
Why develop a new type of satellite propulsion?
In a nutshell, existing satellite propulsion technologies are dependent on rare and exotic gases, such as Xenon and Krypton as a fuel source. Typically, satellites are filled with these gases and then deployed into space. Once they have used up this fuel they can never return, and the satellite lost… and then that’s it, that’s the mission.
“There’s a huge drive to find alternative ways to propel satellites. Satellites need to have their own propulsion so that they can maintain very specific orbits, and to avoid colliding with each other – creating space junk. Ideally, you want them to be able to dispose of themselves at the end of their life. Jonathan Lun, Founder
Worse still, the demand for these industrial gases has increased significantly over the years and is expected to continue increasing as larger constellations of satellites are launched into space. This ever-increasing demand poses a significant problem for the long-term sustainability of space activities in the future.
Changing the way we think about fuel
To truly create a thriving and sustainable space activity, based on cheap and accessible materials and fuel sources, we need to cast aside our old assumptions of what fuel sources of the future will look like.
For example, bulk metals like aluminium, iron and copper are relatively cheap, accessible, and dense. And, they’re abundant in space! If one could harness raw metals as a fuel source, the implications would be massive.
The solution? A simple, but surprisingly effective way is to use an electric arc to vaporise the surface of solid metal electrodes, which in turn creates jets of fast-moving metal plasma that can propel the satellite forward.
The aptly nicknamed ‘sparkplugs in space’ project, is what Jonathan believes could be the solution and future of satellite propulsion in space. So much so, he started Hypernova to develop the technology and make this a practical reality.
“When we met Jon, he had huge dreams and a super-specialized skill set. He is also a very strong entrepreneur who went out and convinced angel investors that his ‘moonshot’ had potential and he built a team to help make it real. Jon came back to us with a very impressive cap table and a dedicated and capable team. It’s been incredible to see Hypernova grow into a very exciting business with international opportunities.” Nick Allen, Savant Venture Fund Managing Partner
SAVANT invested in Hypernova in 2022, but its relationship goes back much further. The initial relationship between SAVANT and Hypernova’s founding team began as early as 2019. SAVANT’s highly experienced team were uniquely qualified to come alongside Hypernova and help them optimise their business plan and in particular its go-to-market strategy. The structured methodology, practised by SAVANT’s team, along with the founders vision and drive, made for a powerful combination.
In November 2022, Hypernova will fly its thrusters into space for the first time. Integrated on Bulgarian-based EnduroSat’s 6U CubeSat Shared Satellite Service, the mission is booked on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rideshare launcher. Stay tuned!