The European Space Agency has awarded Swedish company NanoSpace a €500,000 ($740,000) contract to develop a propellant gauging system for satellites.

In a microgravity environment propellant moves around the inside of the tank making its quantity hard to measure. Satellites are operated until they run out of propellant and so exact information on the remaining levels becomes important towards the end of a spacecraft's design life.

NanoSpace will use micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) in a prototype propellant gauging system it will deliver to ESA in 2009.

"An operational satellite in orbit is worth many millions of euros a year, so in the planning of operation and replacement our system could be valuable for the satellite owner," says NanoSpace president Tor-Arne Grönland.

NanoSpace will manufacture miniaturised silicon-based sensors and actuators, based on MEMS technology, for the prototype gauging system. NanoSpace was spun off from Sweden's Uppsala-based Ångström Laboratory and is owned by the Swedish Space Corporation.

Source: Flight International