Small satellites are becoming increasingly popular tools for Earth-imaging, communications, and other applications. But they have major control issues: Once in space, they can't accurately point cameras or change orbit, and they usually crash and burn within a few months.
What these satellites lack is a viable propulsion system, says MIT aeronautics and astronautics alumna Natalya Brikner PhD '15, co-founder and CEO of Accion Systems. "You can make a satellite the size of a softball with a surprising amount of capabilities, but it can't maneuver properly and falls from orbit quickly," she says. "People are waiting for a solution."