All-electric satellites in sight for Europe
ESA’s partnership with satellite operator SES will bring a new generation of small European telecommunications satellites that are propelled by electric thrusters, with a first launch by the end of 2021.
The Electra project has reached a key milestone in the development of an electric-only propulsion platform for orbit raising and station-keeping, which cuts fuel consumption and thereby reduces launch mass by 40%. This allows payloads to be twice as large, or the use of smaller launchers, both of which are economically attractive.
The contract signing was celebrated today at SES premises in Luxembourg by Karim Sabbagh, President and CEO of SES; Marco Fuchs the CEO of OHB; and representatives of ESA including Director General Jan Woerner, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Magali Vaissiere and delegates from ESA Member States.
“An innovative R&D investment is the key weapon for European industry to stay ahead of the intense global competition. Electra is an example of how we can achieve this,” said Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications.
“Our approach combines best practice gained from several years of experience, with careful customisation according to the peculiarities of each case and the needs of each partner. This is a dynamic and sustainable model for stimulating innovation, by leveraging public money to attract private investment.”
German satellite builder OHB Systems has worked with SES in the development of Electra to extend their portfolio of telecom satellite platforms, adding a fully electric version to the SmallGEO product line (with around 3 tonnes launch mass).
The mission to be hosted on board the first Electra flight will be defined at a later stage of the project; and that inflight validation will be the final step to gain the confidence of the market that is necessary to ensure strong sales.