[Satnews] European Space Propulsion (ESP), a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD), successfully completed testing of a five-kilowatt Hall Thruster with a Power Processing Unit (PPU) supplied by Thales Alenia Space (TAS) Belgium. The test program was successfully conducted in the UK, and marks the first time a flight-proven five-kilowatt class Hall Thruster has been tested with a European-manufactured PPU. The achievement of this test being completed in less time than allocated was a reflection on the robustness of the design and the understanding and expertise of the team.
ESP, a UK-registered company located in Belfast focused on providing in-space chemical and electric propulsion products for the European space market, was awarded a contract valued at approximately €11 million from the European Space Agency (ESA) in March 2015 for the flight qualification of the five-kilowatt XR-5E Hall Thruster, under the ESA Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) initiative, with targeted application on telecommunication satellites.
ESP is in the process of transferring production capability of the industry-leading XR-5 thruster, the only flight-proven five-kilowatt Hall Effect Thruster, from parent company Aerojet Rocketdyne. ESP will develop the XR-5E, building upon the proven satellite integration experience and extensive flight heritage of the XR 5 product line. The program includes establishment of a lower-cost electric propulsion design, manufacturing and testing capability that takes advantage of the strong Northern Ireland engineering and business environment. ESP is also developing a new Thermo-Throttle based Xenon Flow Controller (XFC) that will be combined with the Belfast-built thruster to provide a strong offering into the expanding European market. The completion of the PPU coupling test with the XR-5 is the first major milestone to be completed under the ARTES program.
"By successfully completing this work for the ARTES program, ESP has taken the first major step toward the overall objective of providing a proven and cost-effective five-kilowatt Hall Thruster system for the European market," said Paul Sinton, managing director of European Space Propulsion. "ESP pulled together a team that involves experts from Aerojet Rocketdyne, TAS Belgium and Mars-Space to bring this test to a rapid and successful conclusion at the QinetiQ facility in the UK. The thruster and PPU performed as expected across all test points."
ESP's parent company, Aerojet Rocketdyne, has delivered 16 flight XR 5 Hall Thrusters to date, of which 12 have flown on three Geosynchronous (GEO) Comsat missions. The XR 5 is the highest-power, highest-efficiency Hall Thruster ever flown, and is the only thruster that has successfully demonstrated full electric propulsion orbit raising of a GEO Comsat from Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) to GEO. To date, 64 XR 5 Hall Thrusters covering three different GEO Comsat platforms have been ordered. Additionally, Aerojet Rocketdyne has now developed and flown a second-generation version of the XR-5 thruster, designated the XR-5A, which is the design being transferred to ESP.