Bellatrix Aerospace, a Bengaluru-headquartered space transportation firm which has tested the country’s first privately built Hall Thruster, a highly efficient electric propulsion system for satellites has tied up with industry major L&T with a goal to work closely “in building products for the world”. The agreement was signed late on Thursday in Dubai and the firm said it was confident that “the collaboration combining L&T’s proven capabilities in catering to the Indian space programme with its own strengths in advanced propulsion and allied technologies can help enable cost-effective and sustainable access to space.” Sources in the know said this would enable Bellatrix to scale up — as L&T has decades of manufacturing experience — and expedite making its products available in the market. Earlier this year, the firm had signed an MoU with SatSure AG, a WEF Global Innovator that provides decision intelligence by leveraging advances in satellites, machine learning and Big Data analytics. SatSure operates from St Gallen (Switzerland), Bengaluru, Liverpool (UK) and Sydney (Australia). The MoU is to help Bellatrix to place its payloads in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) — the satellites will host a novel on-board processor for in-orbit high-resolution data processing using SatSure’s proprietary deep learning algorithms and ultra low-bandwidth data transmission on a microsatellite platform comprising Bellatrix Aerospace’s unique hybrid propulsion systems. SatSure and Bellatrix plan to have the first satellite of the proposed constellation launched by the end of December 2022. The firm also has tie-ups with Skyroot Aerospace and Dhruva Space on its ambitious orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) mission. Novel Thrusters & Space TaxiAs reported by TOI earlier, Bellatrix, in May this year, tested the country’s first privately built Hall Thruster, while it had earlier developed the world’s first commercial Microwave Plasma Thruster, which used water as fuel, and for which the company had bagged an order from Isro. A Hall Thruster, initially developed in Russia, is a device that employs electric and magnetic fields to ionize propellant gases such as Xenon to produce thrust. Today, it is the most reliable and time tested electric propulsion system in the global market. Bellatrix CEO and CTO Rohan M Ganapthy, had told TOI that the firm has been working on this technology in stealth mode for four years. “The Heaterless Cathode Technology is the key innovation that sets us apart from the competition by increasing life and redundancy and life of the system. We are also the first ones in the country to have designed it to operate efficiently at very low current levels,” Ganapathy had said, adding that this also forms a critical technology for the Space Taxi they are developing. Isro chairman K Sivan, who inaugurated Bellatrix’s privately-funded propulsion lab which has in-house facilities for development and testing of electric and green chemical propulsion technologies, had also witnessed the firing of the Hall thruster.

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