It has recently come to my attention that Amazon’s Project Kuiper mega-constellation is looking heavily into ILIS ionic liquid ion source electrospray thrusters as a propulsion candidate for its satellites. You can see reference to propulsion speculation here at the end of this article below:
The key giveaways here are the phrases “For example, Amazon intends to use a propulsion system with a chemically inert propellant and is exploring innovative propellant solutions that can be unpressurized“, and most importantly “Keisner said Project Kuiper’s engineers were still weighing exactly what kind of propulsion system to use. The options range from “conventional designs using pressurized noble gas propellant to designs using liquid ionic propellant that can be non-pressurized,” he wrote.”
At this point it is not clear exactly what type ILIS technology Amazon is looking into, nor is there published info besides the article mention above. However, looking deeper into the field, they are buying up top-tier electrospray researchers in the field from top companies as well as MIT, one of the leading research institutes in ILIS technology, having spun off the already highly hyped Accion Systems. The fact that this is a front-runner in propulsion solutions for this mega-constellation means that Amazon is investing very heavily on development, especially since propulsion is such a key subsystem in constellations such as this. Project Kuiper itself currently has over a hundred job openings, and will expanding to a new and massive development facility, to build and develop over 3000 satellites. I am actually very surprised that this has not come up in any prior electrospray conversations I have had in the past, nor as highly published. The fact that Amazon is looking at in-house ILIS development and acquiring skilled researchers from the ILIS field shows there is tremendous interest in the tech that is more extensive than initially thought.
The millions of dollars being pumped into ILIS research is quite remarkable. Between MIT, Accion Systems, and now Amazon I am going against titans with the AIS-ILIS1. The amount of hype for ILIS electrospray thruster technology is low key but incredible and gaining significant traction in the field, even beyond the massive hype generated from Accion Systems efforts. If I can pull it off at my level and price point, the implications for nanosats will be staggering. It is imperative that I get the ILIS1 build complete and tested in vacuum to show proof-of-concept, and get it flown aboard a nanosat. Should I verify successful ignition of the ILIS1, even if only briefly, things will start to get real interesting. Solving the electronics, thruster performance will gradually improve with more testing and iterations. Just gotta take that first step on the runway!
AIS is currently the only entity independently (quite literally a one-man propulsion team!) pursuing a fully integrated, deployable, low-cost ILIS solution on an R&D budget of practically pennies, against multi-million dollar behemoth research initiatives. I may be just one guy trying to build advanced EP systems at home, but this effort is taking on tech that is seeing extraordinary investment and interest at a huge scale in the field now. Fully transparent development, backed only by passionate makers and what I can put in myself.