SENER Aeroespacial joins the Net Zero Space initiative

26/05/2022 (International)
SENER Aeroespacial joins the Net Zero Space initiative

The company is actively involved in projects to mitigate space debris, such as E.T.PACK-Fly; to enable future standard in orbit servicing interface with SIROM; and to develop more robust propulsion systems such as HIPATIA.

SENER Aeroespacial has joined the Net Zero Space initiative, as a step forward in the group's commitment to drive sustainable transformation through engineering and technology.

The Net Zero Space initiative was launched at the occasion of the 4th edition of the Paris Peace Forum by different actors from all over the world concerned by the long-term sustainability of outer space. From satellite operators to launchers, from space agencies to academia and the civil society, all these stakeholders gathered to call to achieving sustainable use of outer space for the benefit of all humankind by 2030 by taking concrete actions to tackle the pressing challenge of reducing debris orbiting Earth.

SENER Aeroespacial is already working to generate more efficient orbital infrastructures. Since 2019, the company is part of the E.T.PACK consortium to develop a deorbit device based on a space tether to tackle the space debris proliferation problem.

E.T.PACK Fly, a project to mitigate space debris

The accumulation of a high number of space debris in Low Earth Orbit represents a threat since, when a collision occurs between two objects in orbit, a cloud of dangerous shrapnels for operational satellites is generated. E.T. PACK-Fly aims to solve this problem by developing a device capable of deorbiting, that is, decreasing the altitude of the orbit of the space debris until it is eliminated during the reentry in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Unlike conventional propulsion systems, the E.T. PACK-Fly equipment uses a disruptive technology, known as an electrodynamic space tether, that does not require propellant. This electrodynamic tether is a very thin aluminium tape (about two centimetres wide and a couple of kilometres long), which works by using the plasma around the Earth and the geomagnetic field to generate an electric current. This electrodynamic effect results in a force known as the Lorentz drag. This force deorbits the satellite up to the reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, where it is eliminated by the heat generated by this process. The tether is the fundamental part of the deorbiting device which, since it does not require fuel, is small and light. It is also designed to be fully autonomous, and to control the deorbiting manoeuvre in order to avoid possible collisions with other objects.

E-T.PACK Fly consortium is coordinated by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and made up of the University of Padova, the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden), the Spanish company SENER Aeroespacial and the German start-up Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), and has recently received €2.5 million from the European Innovation Council (EIC) to prepare the flight model of a deorbit device to be launched into orbit in 2025. RFA and SENER Aeroespacial have already signed the launch service agreement. The E.T. PACK-Fly project is the continuation of the E.T. PACK project, also funded by the EIC. A first prototype of the deorbit device was developed and built in the framework of E.T.PACK.

Lorenzo Tarabini Castellani, director of the E.T.PACK-Fly project at SENER Aeroespacial, points out: “This project gives us the opportunity to build and qualify for space, through a complete series of tests, a light, compact and completely autonomous platform for deorbiting the final stages of launchers. The ETPACK-Fly platform is expected to be launched in 2025 with RFA to demonstrate its proficiency and pave the way for commercial exploitation of deorbiting technology.”

Arrtistic view of the E.T. PACK deorbit device

Other SENER Aeroespacial projects to support the sustainable use of outer space

SENER Aeroespacial is also working on a space refuelling station that will enable in-orbit propellant replenishment, extending the life of satellites. The company will contribute to this future space refuelling station with its SIROM technology, a modular reconfigurable system interface.

Furthermore, SENER Aeroespacial has a long track record in projects that contemplate the generation of space technology from the point of view of sustainability: in institutional programs such as the LOP-Gateway lunar station, SENER Aeroespacial will contribute with antennas and mechanisms to the American HALO module and will provide the IBDM-HCS of the tunnel that will allow astronauts access to the European habitable module, as well as the refuelling of the station.

At launchers, SENER Aeroespacial works in the Space Rider reusable transport system, leading the design of the CNG system of the reentry vehicle.

On the space propulsion side, SENER Aeroespacial is developing the helicon plasma thruster HIPATIA. HIPATIA is a robust radio frequency-powered plasma propulsion system designed to solve several issues affecting electric propulsion systems.

And, on space debris, previously to E.T.PACK project, SENER Aeroespacial coordinated the European Commission’s LEOSWEEP project (‘Improving Low Earth Orbit Security With Enhanced Electric Propulsion’), a consortium of 11 institutions comprised of companies, research centers and universities of the EU and Ukraine that worked in a mitigation method for this space debris problem.

SENER Aeroespacial develops high value-added products and technology for institutional, telecommunications, astronomy and science programs, and launchers, with the capacity to produce recurring series of cost-efficient products.

Joining Net Zero Space is another example of the SENER Group's commitment to society through sustainable engineering projects and technologies. The SENER Group has also join the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) approved by the United Nations.

Helicon Plasma Thruster (HTP) developed on a second stage in the HIPATIA project

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