November 29, 2023


Step Into The Technology

LeoStella buys Astra’s electric propulsion systems for satellites

2 min read


An electric propulsion system lights up its thruster with xenon propellant. (Astra / Apollo Fusion Photo)

Astra Space says it’s made a deal with Tukwila, Wash.-based LeoStella to provide multiple electric propulsion systems for LeoStella’s small satellites, with deliveries due to begin later this year.

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

LeoStella is a joint venture between BlackSky and Thales Alenia Space that builds satellites for BlackSky, Loft Orbital and other customers at its Tukwila manufacturing facility. California-based Astra Space’s main business line has to do with launching rockets, but last year the company acquired Apollo Fusion, which makes electric propulsion systems.

Electric propulsion systems, also known as ion drives, can provide a gentle but steady oomph for spacecraft by shooting out beams of ions. The Astra / Apollo Fusion systems can make use of xenon or krypton propellant.

For what it’s worth, Apollo Fusion’s electric propulsion system was previously chosen for use on a version of the Sherpa space tug that’s made by Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc., one of Astra’s industry partners.

LeoStella plans to use Astra’s electric propulsion systems on a variety of satellites.

“As demand for small satellites continues to grow, we are always looking for innovative options to provide highly efficient, reliable propulsion for our satellites,” Tod Byquist, LeoStella’s director of programs and supply chain, said today in a news release. “Astra’s Spacecraft Engine has good flight heritage and the performance we need to get our satellites to space on schedule.”

Mike Cassidy, Astra’s vice president of project management, called LeoStella “a pioneering force in constructing critical space infrastructure through a variety of satellite designs.”

“Their vision to deploy reliable, cost-effective satellites aligns closely with Astra’s and demonstrates the innovative forces at work to expand and accelerate access to space,” Cassidy said.


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