“Max Q: Trouble in Orbit”

max q trouble in orbit.jpg Technology

"Propulsion Troubles Plague Satellite Operators in Space"


The challenges of operating satellites in space continue to mount as propulsion issues persist. In the latest setback, remote-sensing satellite operator HawkEye 360 has announced that three of its satellites have been pushed to lower orbits due to "irreparable" failures in their propulsion systems. This comes as a result of high solar activity, further complicating the situation. The propulsion failure, which has been attributed to Enpulsion, an Austria-based company, has left the Cluster 4 spacecraft operating at an orbital altitude of approximately 477 km. Despite unsuccessful attempts to remedy the issue, HawkEye 360 has now concluded that the propulsion system failures are irreparable. This incident follows reports of premature de-orbiting of Capella Space satellites due to solar activity and problems with third-party propulsion.

More Propulsion Troubles in Space

The recent propulsion troubles faced by HawkEye 360 are not isolated incidents. Capella Space, another satellite operator, has also encountered issues with solar activity and third-party propulsion leading to premature de-orbiting. These challenges highlight the vulnerability of satellites to external factors beyond the control of operators. Solar activity, which can cause disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field and increase atmospheric drag, is a significant concern for satellite operators. Additionally, dependence on third-party propulsion systems introduces an additional layer of complexity and potential points of failure. As the demand for satellite services continues to grow, addressing these propulsion challenges becomes crucial for the successful operation of satellite constellations.

Innovative Solutions in the Satellite Industry

While propulsion troubles persist, the satellite industry continues to innovate and develop new solutions. TC Array Labs, for instance, has ambitious plans to scan Earth in 3D using clusters of radar satellites. This technology could revolutionize remote sensing and provide valuable insights into various industries, including agriculture, infrastructure monitoring, and disaster management. Astranis, a satellite company, is also making waves with its newest product, UtilitySat. Dubbed "the Swiss Army Knife of satellites" by CEO John Gedmark, UtilitySat offers a versatile platform for a wide range of applications, including broadband connectivity and Earth observation. Such advancements in satellite technology demonstrate the industry’s determination to overcome challenges and provide innovative solutions to meet growing demands.

Looking Ahead

As satellite operators continue to face propulsion troubles and other obstacles in space, collaboration and investment in research and development become critical for the industry’s advancement. The development of more robust propulsion systems and advancements in space weather forecasting can help mitigate the impact of solar activity on satellite operations. Moreover, the satellite industry must prioritize building in-house propulsion capabilities to reduce reliance on third-party systems. By investing in innovative technologies and fostering collaborations, the industry can enhance the resilience and reliability of satellite constellations, ensuring uninterrupted services and expanding the possibilities of space exploration and Earth observation.


  1. Propulsion failures continue to plague satellite operators, with HawkEye 360 experiencing "irreparable" propulsion system issues due to solar activity.
  2. Dependence on third-party propulsion systems and solar activity pose challenges for satellite operations.
  3. Innovations in the satellite industry, such as 3D Earth scanning and versatile satellite platforms, offer promising solutions.
  4. Collaboration and investment in research and development are crucial for addressing propulsion challenges and advancing the industry.
  5. Building in-house propulsion capabilities and improving space weather forecasting can enhance the resilience of satellite constellations.
Crive - News that matters