ELECTRA Pressure regulator being tested at OHB in Sweden

Heart of Electra given green light

28/03/2019 668 views 19 likes
ESA / Applications / Telecommunications & Integrated Applications

A key element of the ‘Electra’ all-electric satellite’s propulsion management system has passed all tests with flying colours.

Electra is an ESA Partnership Programme and concerns the development of a fully electric propulsion geostationary spacecraft that will help European industry expand their product lines and improve their competitiveness in the ever-evolving satcom market.

Satellites that use Xenon electric propulsion can provide significant benefits over the traditional chemical propulsion equivalent, as Xenon fuel is much more efficient and takes up less mass within the spacecraft.

This gives the satellite’s owner the option to either fill that space with more payload equipment, resulting in a more powerful satellite, or keep the satellite’s weight down, resulting in a lower cost to launch.

Electra’s innovative propulsion system will help bring about these kinds of benefits.

The qualification model of the regulator that will properly adjust the pressure and flow rate of the Xenon propellant was recently tested under laboratory conditions at OHB Sweden.

These tests ensured the regulator could deliver the Xenon propellant to the satellite’s thrusters in all operating modes – orbit raising, station-keeping and safe mode – while still being as light and cost-efficient as possible.

Pablo Rueda Boldo, Electra project manager, said: “Electra is part of our ARTES programme’s efforts to develop sustainable end-to-end systems up to in-orbit validation, and help de-risk our partner’s investment to answer market needs.

“Electra’s innovative propulsion subsystems will result in a substantial cost reduction with respect to chemical variants, while meeting mission requirements in terms of performance, redundancy and reliability.”

The regulator is now being integrated with the thrusters and the rest of the propulsion subsystem equipment to perform a complete end-to end testing of the Electric Propulsion Subsystem, and will then be embarked on the first Electra platform flight model, which is also under development.

Marco Fuchs, chief executive of OHB System AG, said: “The fact that we are developing the crucial components for the ‘electric revolution’ in the satellite market is of great strategic importance for us. Electra marks a paradigm change in the geostationary market and, with our technologically significant components, we will be a sought-after partner for further satellite developments projects in other weight classes.”