In all likelihood, you directly interact with at least three phases of matter on a daily basis—gas, liquid, and solid. But the same can’t necessarily be said about plasma, the fourth phase of matter. In fact, some people might be inclined to say that plasma doesn’t relate much to our daily lives at all…but they’d be mistaken. To understand the impact of plasma, it’s only necessary to understand the impact of satellites—spacecraft that orbit Earth’s atmosphere and allow for global telecommunications, navigation, weather forecasting, environmental forecasting, and so much more.
Historically, the noble gas xenon has been the primary source of fuel for electric satellite propulsion, but the team at Phase Four is creating plasma propulsion technology that’s allowing for cheaper, more efficient, and more flexible satellite missions. Phase Four technology allows for electric satellite propulsion to be fueled by any neutral gas (e.g., xenon, argon, and krypton) as well as novel propellants, such as water vapor, air, and methane. The ability to use such novel propellants will remove the necessity of carrying earthbound fuels into space, and allow for the use of locally available fuels, thereby making for cheaper and lengthier missions.
CEO of Phase Four, Beau Jarvis, joins the podcast to discuss the ins and outs of this new technology, as well as a number of other interesting topics, such as the imminence of megaconstellations and the potential for space-delivered internet in the coming years.
Interested in learning more? Tune in and visit phasefour.io.
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