Company Spotlight: Magdrive
Magdrive, a UK-based business is set to change spacecraft propulsion. They intend to do so by replacing the current chemical reaction model, to one which uses metal propellent to produce a high-energy plasma. In doing so, Magdrive enables spacecraft to manoeuvre in an efficient way preventing further space debris by averting crashes; provide a sustainable model which allows repeated manoeuvring; and catalyses new and exciting missions that reach further into space and away from Earth’s atmosphere.
In conversation with CTO Thomas Clayson, he discusses the importance of Magdrive in delivering an innovative propulsion solution to facilitate the future of the space sector. In answer to how Magdrive named their recent January 2023 mission, Operation Get it up, Clayson explains that Magdrive endeavours to title their prototypes with whimsical names, at times inspired by Iain M. Banks’ The Culture Series. The team is encouraged to think creatively and have named other prototypes with equally imaginative names such as; Fate Amenable to Change, Thinking Man’s Bullet, a particularly large prototype entitled So Much for Subtlety, and a current prototype titled Look What You Made Me Do. Unsurprisingly, the team also bring creativity and ownership in their approach to prototypes, as Clayson boasts, “We’re inventing new technology – one of the purest forms of creativity.”
Remarking on the current state of space law and policy, Clayson notes how in the past space hardware has had high requirements including multiple ground-based tests before leaving Earth’s surface. Space legislation, he remarks, is a global problem as Earth’s orbit does not comply with the same borders as drawn on maps. Though legislation does not yet mandate the decommissioning end-of-life satellites, Magdrive pre-empts this potential statute by providing a solution for propelling satellites out of orbit. In this way, Magdrive sees the potential move toward the sustainable use of space as a positive for their business model. Alternatively, Magdrive also sees the potential of small companies; those with smaller satellite constellations of 50-100 in becoming early adopters for Magdrive’s thrusters.
Having completed a successful launch of their power system (not the full Magdrive whose anticipated launch in late 2024-early 2025), Magdrive hopes to demonstrate the capability of the team in delivering space hardware and integrating it into a host spacecraft. Magdrive continues to receive support and attention within the sector, as they have recently secured funding from UKSA to pursue a concept use case for launch capability in the UK. This is proposed as a third stage in a rocket’s propulsion which can push spacecraft into higher orbit and GEO. In doing do, Magdrive stands to increase the UK launch capacity while also facilitating constellation management from UK soil. Magdrive have worked closely with Satellite Applications Catapult by: utilising the Westcott Facilities; working with heads of the Catapult on scaling the business; and moving into the Catapult’s Zephyr Building (before moving to their new offices). The Catapult is excited to watch the future of Magdrive and how they continue to propel the industry to new heights!
In-Orbit Podcast: In-Orbit Servicing & Manufacturing
Thomas Clayson guested on our In-Orbit podcast to discuss this new era of space infrastructure.
Magdrive Case Study
Back in 2021, we shared a case study exploring Magdrive’s journey through our business support programmes at Westcott.