This week, energy and astrophysics startup Rhea Space Activity (RSA) announced that it has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from the U.S. Air Force. The project will explore RSA’s solar-thermal propulsion system–an alternative to nuclear-fueled space propulsion–as a possible solution for rapid repositioning of U.S. Space Force (USSF) deep-space communications spacecraft, currently under development.
Rhea Space Activity’s proposed spacecraft, known as SCORPIUS, is based on an unfolding solar reflector, modeled after origami, to heat a block of tungsten that will then vaporize propellant in order to generate propulsion.
This reflector will also act as a large-area communications antenna that redirects solar light to generate power for all of the spacecraft’s subsystems. Ideally, this architecture would allow the U.S. Space Force to rapidly reposition SCORPIUS in deep space to conduct offensive and defensive communications operations.
As U.S. and…