Satnews Daily
November 27th, 2013

OHB System AG—Propellant Mass Reduction Is The Key (Satellite)

[SatNews] OHB System AG has been awarded a contract for the development of a telecommunications satellite known as Electra, which will be powered solely by electricity—the contract was entered into in Betzdorf with satellite operator SES.

Signed in the presence of Luxembourg communications minister Luc Frieden, research minister Martine Hansen, director general of the European Space Agency ESA Jean-Jacques Dordain, board member for space management at the German Space Agency Gerd Gruppe, president and CEO of SES Romain Bausch, member of OHB System’s management board Frank Negretti, and other high-ranking representatives from politics and industry, the contract ushered in the next one-year B1 development phase in the project.


Artistic rendition of the Electra satellite.
Image courtesy of ESA.

Electra is a public-private partnership under the ESA ARTES 33 program serving the purpose of providing the satellite communications industry with innovative products and systems. It is an advanced electrically powered telecommunications satellite in the sub-three-ton weight class. Such a system has previously not been available commercially in Europe. To date, electric power systems have only been used in research satellites or for orbit maintenance for telecommunications satellites. Artemis, a communications satellite operated by ESA, successfully tested the concept of using solely electric power to achieve a geostationary orbit for the first time. The results showed that electric power systems reduce propellant mass requirements by up to 90 percent when compared to chemical power systems. Consequently, it is possible to reduce the launch mass of the satellite by almost half.

Electra is now to be used to systematically broaden the scope for implementing this technology in a specially designed satellite system. The project initially entails the platform development which in a further step is to lead to a joint mission with industrial project partner SES. As one of the world’s largest satellite operators, this company has a keen interest in encouraging competition in the selection of launch vehicles in order to achieve additional savings. With this contract, OHB System is tapping a substantially larger area of business in commercial telecommunications and adding an innovative new power system design to its SmallGEO range.

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