MIT Technology Review is among my favorite sources for keeping up on the cream of the crop of America’s young technology wizards. Here Signe Brewster introduces avid followers of TR to the wizardry of Natalya Brikner and how Natalya “became a rocket Scientist and CEO before 30.”
As Natalya Brikner worked her way through a PhD at MIT’s Space Propulsion Laboratory, she assumed she’d go on to become a professor in the field. She grew up in a small town in northwest Oregon watching the stars and thinking about the aliens among them. Studying rocket propulsion represented a practical application.
But then a project she was working on with a labmate caught the attention of the rocket industry. They created the first working prototype that made use of a propulsion technology for tiny satellites. In 2014, Brikner and Louis Perna founded Accion to commercialize the technology. They demonstrated it in space for the first time one year ago this month.
The dime-sized rocket engines contain a propellant in which charged particles accelerate to enormous speeds to create thrust, which would lend tiny satellites commonly used to collect images and other data from Earth the useful skill of repositioning themselves. The technology could someday be scaled up, too, allowing it to power larger satellites.
Accion hopes to demonstrate the final version of its thrusters next year.