Electra will support European satellite industry in developing, launching and validating in orbit a full electric-propulsion telecommunications satellite in the 3-tonne launch mass range.
While electric engines have been fitted to scientific spacecraft and to telecom satellites for stationkeeping in recent years, industry worldwide is looking to extend this trend towards raising a satellite to its intended geostationary orbit after launch.
ESA’s Artemis telecom satellite was Europe’s first experimental use of electric thrusters to raise a satellite to its target orbit. Artemis proved that electric thrusters are capable of performing the same task as conventional chemical propulsion but with up to 90% savings in fuel consumption.
Electra can offer power consumption and communication capabilities equal to those offered by larger mid-size satellites while keeping the launch mass low enough for small launcher vehicles, or to put together a larger payload for the same launch mass, which translates in both cases into significant economic benefits.
Electra encompasses both the development of the platform and the implementation of a mission with the private partner.
It will allow a coordinated effort in realising a European full electric propulsion small geostationary satellite, and provide flight heritage and in-orbit demonstration of the platform and associated new technologies in a representative telecom mission, which is essential to gain market acceptance for a new platform product.