Partner Programme: Electra
ARTES 33 Partner is a new programme element to provide the satcom industry with an efficient framework to bring innovative products and systems into the marketplace through industry-generated public–private partnerships.
ESA has implemented several PPPs through its telecommunications programme, including Amerhis, Alphasat, SmallGEO, Hylas-1 and EDRS. These projects have shown that PPPs are well suited to achieve ESA’s objectives to promote the research and development of new technologies, foster the competitiveness of the satcom industry in Europe and Canada, create new downstream services and provide social benefits.
The first Partner project under the new programme is Electra. Electra 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.
Electra encompasses both the development of the platform and the implementation of a mission with the private partner.
It will allow a coordinated effort in realising a European full electric propulsion small geostationary satellite, and provide flight heritage and in-orbit demonstration of the platform and associated new technologies in a representative telecom mission, which is essential to gain market acceptance for a new platform product.