Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace tests green satellite propulsion

Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace tests green satellite propulsion
Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace has tested an eco-friendly propulsion system for satellites that cuts a new path from the hydrazine-dependent fuel systems and offers a potential 20% jump in fuel efficiency for space satellites, co-founder Yashas Karanam told ET. 
Satellite thrusters run on toxic compound hydrazine known to have a severe environmental impact, pushing space researchers to scout for eco-friendlier alternatives. Bellatrix’s recent testing of its green propulsion system also marks a key inflection point in the startup’s journey in building a space taxi system for satellites. 
“While all rocket fuels can be dangerous to handle without proper safety precautions, our proprietary green propellant has significantly reduced toxicity compared to hydrazine, making it safer to store and handle,” said Karanam. 
The startup would soon move it towards commercialization and look at making it into a product by the next year. The company believes that human space flight missions would also be an ideal use case candidate for the green propellant. 
Isro has said the union government has approved two unmanned missions and one crewed expedition as part of the Rs 9,023-crore Gaganyaan mission, according to a release. The green propellant advancement should it be considered for human flight missions, would lead to shorter processing times and reduction in the number of handling requirements, both critical functions in a crewed human flight mission. 
Bellatrix counts among a clutch of new age space tech startups in India that have taken venture capital funds to reach important frontiers in a global race towards better space programmes. The IISc-founded startup received pre-series A in June 2019 led by IDFC Parampara. Bellatrix belongs to the crop populated by the likes of Agnikul Cosmos, Pixxel, Skyroot Aerospace and others drawing investor interest in the nascent field. 
Research institutes such as IISc have been making breakthroughs in the field Bellatrix has made a dent, say researchers. 
“The work on green propulsion is extremely important as world is shifting fast towards green chemicals and aligning with the latest developments is important for our country,” said Prof Charlie Oommen, chief research scientist-propulsion at Indian Institute of Science. “Isro had announced that it will work towards using green fuels in all its future missions and the green fuel recently tested by Bellatrix Aerospace is extremely promising as it offers both benign handling facilities and higher performance than conventionally used toxic chemicals like hydrazine."