New Zealand-headquartered space-flight systems company Zenno Astronautics (Zenno) announced today that it had surpassed $75 million in product sales (US$48 million) for its world-first superconducting magnetorquer for spacecraft attitude control, the Z01. Built on Zenno’s proprietary superconducting magnet technology, Z01 is a fuel-free satellite pointing system designed to significantly increases the range of capabilities for attitude control in space, including fully autonomous satellite positioning and extended satellite orbit time.
Zenno CEO and co-founder Max Arshavsky says achieving the sales milestone for Z01 in under a year demonstrates that the global space industry is embracing innovative technology that solves a real problem. The Zenno invention enables higher performance in satellite design and function, offering benefits well beyond the constraints of existing technologies.
Alarming in its simplicity, the Z01’s pointing capabilities unlock new opportunities and new services in orbit by enabling better imagery and communications and offering the benefit of more time in space.
“Z01 is the world’s most advanced spacecraft pointing technology and operates ‘like a sustainable magnetic sail or electric vehicle in space’ – addressing the challenges of moving objects in space while reducing the impact on the planet. Z01 radically enhances sustainability, reliability, and accuracy – as it is fuel-free, harnessing magnetic forces and solar for spacecraft control,” says Arshavsky.
Zenno is planning to launch its first full-scale Z01 attitude control system in late 2023. The innovation is the first of several the six-year-old company is bringing to market to support its mission to build life in space.
Getting an ever-increasing number of satellites into orbit is only one half of the equation; satellites require persistent shifts to ensure their antenna, sensors, solar panels, and more are facing the correct directions. Zenno’s breakthrough Z01 super torquer consumes electricity only and does not require on-satellite fuel consumption for satellite control in orbit. In contrast, existing propulsion systems that enable these movements require fuel until a satellite’s mission ends. Powered by solar panels, Zenno’s Z01 on-satellite hardware uses cryogenically cooled high-temperature superconductors to generate strong magnetic fields, which interact with the Earth’s geomagnetic field, allowing the satellite to rotate and shift.
Attitude control systems are one of the largest and heaviest subsystems on a satellite. Z01 is significantly smaller and lighter than existing attitude control technologies. Arshavsky says, “Small is significant when it comes to satellites as it reduces launch costs and creates radical new possibilities for spacecraft design and deployment. With a mass of around 4kg, Z01 is around one-tenth of the weight of traditional torquers that perform similarly. As we can control and manoeuvre spacecraft, additional services can also be provided – that will open up new opportunities in the future, such as debris removal, construction and servicing in space. We are working on a range of innovations that use Z01 as a base technology – and will together form solutions to enable the space industry to thrive in the long term.”