Satnews Daily
September 13th, 2017

NexGen Ion Propulsion System in the Works by ArianeGroup and Boeing

Boeing and the Orbital Propulsion section of ArianeGroup are jointly developing a next-generation ion propulsion system based on the dual-mode Radio Frequency Ion Thruster (RIT) 2X subsystem.

Germany, via DLR’s Space Administration, and Spain, via CDTI (Spanish Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology), are supporting the development through their respective contributions to the European Space Agency (ESA) “ARTES” (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) program as well as the German national space program.

The Radio Frequency Ion Thruster RIT 2X Series. Photo is courtesy of ArianeGroup.

The joint activity is combining Boeing’s long-lasting operational heritage and ArianeGroup’s expertise in RIT thruster technology design and development. Thanks to its high-thrust mode for orbit-raising operations, the RIT thruster system will enable Boeing to increase payload mass while reducing time-to-orbit on its satellites. Boeing is using its experience in on-orbit electric propulsion operations to update its satellite architectures for integration of the advanced RIT propulsion system.
The RIT 2X subsystem comprises the thruster itself, a high-power processing unit and a radio frequency generator. The subsystem successfully passed its preliminary design review milestone in mid-2016 and is moving towards a critical design review.

ArianeGroup’s Orbital Propulsion activity, based at Lampoldshausen, in Germany, contributes its propulsion equipment and subsystem design, manufacturing and test capabilities to this development. Until now, around 350 satellites have been equipped with propulsion products from Lampoldshausen, such as telecom satellites, science missions including Rosetta, the space cargo ATV and the future European Service Module for Orion.

Josef Koecher, Head of Orbital Propulsion at ArianeGroup, explained that this new electrical propulsion product will extend ArianeGroup’s product portfolio of highly-reliable satellite propulsion solutions and will underline the company's role as a ‘one-stop-shop’ provider for propulsion components, complete propulsion subsystems and associated launch services for satellite primes worldwide.