Rocket engine test at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. (NASA/Virgin Orbit) (NASA/Virgin Orbit)
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NewRocket is working to get its fuel and the engines that use it up and running inthousands of satellites.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

An Israeli startup has developed a new gel-fueled rocket engine that is “powerful, controllable and environmentally friendly”, the tech website Satellite Pro ME reported Tuesday.

Aptly named NewRocket, the company is building rocket engines for use in satellites, giving them a more efficient way to change orbit and maneuver.

Central to the new development is NewRocket’s “PowerGel” propellant, which is also reportedly more environmentally friendly, without compromising high performance.

“Our proprietary gel fuel combines the benefits of both solid and liquid fuels: it is powerful … fully controllable, and environmentally friendly,” said NewRocket CEO Ilan Harel. “The gel propellant is safe and non-toxic, thereby dramatically reducing fueling, storage and ground service costs.”

Harel noted that traditional hydrazine-based fuels used today for satellite propulsion are highly toxic, making them dangerous to work with when building rocket engines on the ground. Hydrazine is so toxic, Harel says, that Europe is expected to ban its use, meaning satellite manufacturers will need a new fuel and engines to use it in.

The company recently won its first contracts with leading aerospace corporations and secured an initial $1 million in investor funding.

NewRocket was given its start in a high-tech incubator backed by Israel’s Elbit Systems and uses technology developed by Prof. Benny Natan from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Technion in Haifa.

And the market for orbital space rocket engines is huge. Harel says in the coming years companies will be launching thousands of satellites. With more space debris in orbit, NewRocket’s propulsion systems will give satellite owners a more efficient way to control their investments in orbit.

“The space industry is going through a massive transformation. For decades it has been a government-controlled sector. Still, in recent years, with the emergence of private initiatives by entrepreneurs like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the civilian space market started to rapidly develop,” said Netta Cohen, the CEO of Incubit Ventures, which gave NewRocket its start.

“In order for this market to accelerate and scale, there is a real need to reduce costs, while maintaining high performance. NewRocket’s solution disrupts the market with an innovative approach,” Cohen noted.

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