Portal Space Systems, under the leadership of propulsion expert Jeff Thornburg, is poised to revolutionize in-space transportation with its groundbreaking Supernova satellite bus. This ultra-mobile platform promises maneuverability on a scale never seen before, offering rapid transfers from low Earth orbit to geostationary orbit within hours.

Unlike traditional spacecraft limited by their static nature, the 500-kg Supernova boasts payload agnosticism and a minimum on-orbit survival span of five years, all while being continuously maneuvered. At the heart of this innovation lies Portal’s solar-thermal propulsion system, capable of producing a staggering delta-V of 6 kilometers per second. This enables swift transfers to cislunar space and bolsters maneuverability for national security missions.

Portal Space Systems was founded by industry luminaries Jeff Thornburg, Ian Vorbach, and Prashaanth Ravindran, each bringing decades of experience to the table. Thornburg’s illustrious career, spanning roles at major aerospace organizations including the Air Force, Aerojet, SpaceX, and Stratolaunch, underscores his visionary approach to space technology.

The genesis of Portal Space Systems arose from Thornburg’s keen insight into the evolving space industry landscape. With the advent of affordable and reliable launch capabilities pioneered by SpaceX, coupled with the proliferation of satellites in orbit, the need for responsive space capabilities became apparent. The Supernova represents a paradigm shift, challenging the status quo by offering unprecedented mobility and adaptability.

Supernova’s propulsion system, developed in-house by Portal, leverages legacy technology while incorporating innovative subsystems to enhance mission performance. Notably, the inclusion of proprietary heat exchangers optimizes the solar-thermal propulsion system for longevity and efficiency.

The company’s endeavors have garnered significant support, with undisclosed venture funding and multiple awards from the Space Force and the Department of Defense. With the first Supernova development fully funded, Portal is poised to conduct an in-flight demonstration by late 2025 or early 2026.

Looking ahead, Portal plans to scale its team and manufacturing capabilities to accommodate the production of multiple spacecraft per year. With a vision for the future and a commitment to innovation, Portal Space Systems aims to redefine the boundaries of space exploration and transportation.

By Impact Lab