Electra is the first ARTES 33 Partner project. It 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. Such a capacity does not yet exist in Europe.
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.
How is it implemented?
Electra offers to involved European industry the unique opportunity to develop and validate the new product in a commercially representative environment thanks to the PPP set-up with the satellite operator. The satellite operator, therefore, is proposing a mission that will validate and exploit the capabilities of the new platform.
The programme encompasses both the development of the platform and the implementation of a mission in partnership with the private partner.
The Electra programme will:
- Allow a coordinated effort in realising a European “full electric propulsion” small geostationary satellite capability.
- Provide in-flight heritage and in-orbit demonstration of the platform and associated new technologies in a representative telecommunication satellite mission, which is essential to gain market acceptance for a new platform product and, therefore, lead to future recurring exploitation.
A prospective launch is planned for 2017.
Electra will increase European Member States competitiveness and complement the existing European offer in other platform market segments, providing a capability for which demand exists and building flight heritage in the most credible and representative environment.
Last Update: 12 Feb 2013