South Africa: Tech firm Hypernova hopes to power space missions

Jonathan Lun,

A Cape Town-based company, Hypernova Space Technologies, are keen to give "tumbling satellites" a little bit more autonomy.

Jonathan Lun, Co-Founder & CEO, Hypernova Space Technologies, said: "Most satellites are simply computers that are tossed out the side of a rocket [that] are tumbling in space."

Hypernova Space Technologies builds cutting-edge electric propulsion for small satellites.

The firm has developed a thruster system that could give even the smallest types of satellites the capacity to move around, based on over a decade of research and development in cathodic arc technology.

Lun previously said that the company hopes to increase demands from licensing organisations to ensure satellites do not generate or become space debris, and increasingly, have an active ability to de-orbit.

"Making sure our use of space is sustainable is vital for the industry and for humanity as a whole. Propulsion systems like Hypernova will enable that"

The company hopes to that their technology could be applied to nanosatellites which are small satellites weighing under 10kg and, even applied to the tiniest of them all, the 10cm cubes known as cubesats.

There are an estimated 3,200 nanosatellites floating around in orbit already, and that number is expected to grow rapidly in the near future: SpaceX alone is in the process of launching a constellation of around 42,000 satellites.

Organisations that include MIT in the US, and the European Space Agency have also invested in research and developing the thruster technology that could propel small satellites through space.

Hypernova is also collaborating with other players in the South African space industry, such as the Electrical and Electronic Engineering department at Stellenbosch University, which is currently developing a technology that would allow satellites to dock with each other.