Atmospheric Satellite Using a Plasma-Based, Air-Breathing Thruster

M. Azuara Rosales
Stratospheric Technologies, Washington, United States

Keywords: Atmospheric Satellite, Stratosphere, Plasma-Based Thruster

Currently, wireless services such as telecommunications, weather forecasting, imaging, and remote sensing, are provided using conventional satellites and ground towers. Conventional satellites have a great coverage area, but their cost of development and operation is very high. Therefore, many of the services provided by these systems are limited or inaccessible to many people and small/medium businesses. Additionally, conventional satellites have limitations like high latency, low-resolution imaging, and the need of large satellite constellations for high availability at a given point, such as GPS. Ground towers are less expensive; however, they are fixed, and their coverage area is limited to approximately 45 km. A geostationary aircraft acting as an atmospheric satellite would offer a lower cost and more flexible alternative, with improved capabilities that are currently out of reach with conventional technology. An aircraft of this type would sustain flight in the stratosphere, above dangerous weather conditions for long periods of time. The problem is finding a propulsion system capable of operating at such altitudes. Recently, we developed an air-breathing, plasma-based thruster (AB-PPT), which has been proven in the laboratory to be capable of sustaining an aircraft in the stratosphere, such that an atmospheric satellite could be now feasible.