Plasma (electric) propulsion has emerged in recent years as the benchmark solution for satellite attitude control and the final phase of orbital positioning. By considerably reducing the weight of propellant that has to be carried onboard, this technology means being able to launch lighter and/or higher capacity satellites. The large quantity of propellants needed for conventional propulsion systems has been replaced by a small quantity of xenon gas for plasma thrusters.
Thales Alenia Space Belgium’s expertise in power supply units for plasma thrusters has been recognized for over 16 years. One of the first units delivered was used on the legendary Smart-1, Europe’s first lunar probe.
Thirty-five previous-generation PPU units for 1.5 to 2.5 kW plasma thrusters have already been delivered to Europe’s three largest manufacturers of telecommunications satellites.
Thales Alenia Space Belgium developed a new-generation unit that reflects customer feedback and changing market requirements. The Belgian subsidiary of French-Italian company Thales Alenia Space developed a new avionics system for satellite power management, providing unprecedented performance, flexibility and lightness. The recently qualified PPU Mk3 will provide electrical power to the plasma thrusters that handle orbital positioning and stationkeeping on all-electric versions of new telecom satellites. This new unit is designed to power thrusters in the 5 kW class, and will be compatible with all plasma thrusters now on the market.
“Thanks to support from the Belgian government, and within the scope of the European Space Agency’s ARTES program (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems)we have successfully developed and qualified this new-generation product,” said Patrick Bury, Vice President, Sales and Programs at Thales Alenia Space Belgium. “All of our engine-maker partners congratulated us on the results of tests of our PPU Mk3 with different 5-kW class plasma thrusters.” PPU Mk3, already a sales success Fifteen PPU Mk3 units have already been selected for all-electric satellite platforms, including six dedicated in particular to Spacebus NEO satellites ordered to Thales Alenia Space.