New Frontiers #6: Spacecraft Propulsion Systems
Recorded by: Yeoh Jun Kai, NUS SEDS '19
October 24, 2019

Speaker Bio:

Dr Lim Jian Wei Mark is the co-founder and CEO of Aliena Pte Ltd. He holds concurrent appointments as the lead scientist at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU, and is also an adjunct lecturer at the National Institute of Education. Dr Lim is also currently appointed as an Expert-In-Residence to the the Darwin Innovation Hub. Prior to helming Aliena, Dr Lim spent 10 years in Singapore’s civil service where he was a recipient of notable academic scholarships. Mark’s expertise and strength is in various domains of plasma Physics. He has numerous high impact publications and conference proceedings in various plasma related topics including nanofabrication, optoelectronic, photovoltaics, high density RF plasma reactor design, autonomous systems and embedded electronics, plasma diagnostics, engineering of space environment systems for performance evaluation of thrusters, as well as design of miniaturized plasma thrusters for space propulsion. He was involved in the commissioning of Singapore’s flagship space environment facility and the associated programs for development of plasma thrusters for space propulsion during the pursuit of his PhD in Physics. Additionally, he was involved in spearheading various emerging verticals including advising the National Research Foundation (Singapore) on establishing a Nuclear Fusion Capability Building Program (NFCBP), and also served as the founding member of a National Centre of Innovation for Energy (Ecolabs). Dr Lim is also a multi-award winning Physicist with numerous awards being accoladed for excellence in research, mentorship, as well as teaching.

Company Bio

Aliena Pte Ltd is Singapore’s fastest growing home-groomed space-tech start-up, based at the Satellite Research Centre (SaRC) at NTU – Singapore.

The company’s vision is to provide turn-key solutions for satellites and spacecrafts through customized engines to achieve unique mission objectives. Aliena views it’s role as providers of commercially viable subsystems that empower satellites to perform unprecedented maneuvers and new missions in space for remote sensing, security, surveillance, and asset management. These maneuvers are expected to create an ecosystem of new mission possibilities for enhanced operations in emerging markets.

Alien looks forward to building close working relationships within the space community to catalyze development in bringing forward the lead up time of emerging payloads for commercial applications, as well as to bridge translation efforts of technology from academic institutions to commercially viable products. Aliena believes in establishing and fostering strategic partnerships Internationally and regionally amongst academic institutions and commercial entities.

Talk Summary

The dawn of the “NewSpace” movement has catalysed disruption in the commercial space industry through the lowered costs for launching and deployment of swarms of miniature platforms in space that would eventually acquire data or enhance telecommunication connectivity for terrestrial applications. As a large amount of satellites are slated to be deployed at lower Earth orbits, the demand for a miniature functional propulsion system becomes increasingly pertinent to enable new mission objectives. Propulsion systems of small footprints that could deliver significant thrusts would allow for enhanced agility of satellites, in-situ manoeuvres on demand, debris avoidance, ability to maintain constellations of satellites flying in formation over long durations, compensate for drag at lower Earth orbits, and most importantly allow for a mechanism to de-orbit the satellites at the end of lifetime. In this talk, Dr Lim would go through the developmental process of a novel plasma rocket that has been conceived, designed and engineered in Singapore. This system is slated for deployment in space for an in-orbit tech demo in 2020, and would be one of the smallest functional Hall-effect based systems to be integrated on a small platform to enhance operational capabilities of commercial platforms in space.