First all-electric propulsion satellites launched into space

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In early March, two Boeing 702SP (small platform) satellites, the first all-electric propulsion satellites, were launched into space.

First all-electric propulsion satellites launched into space

In early March, two Boeing 702SP (small platform) satellites, the first all-electric propulsion satellites, were launched into space.

The satellites were launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellites will provide communications services for Bermuda-based ABS and Paris-based Eutelsat.

The Eutelsat and ABS satellites launched without a supply of conventional liquid hydrazine fuel, relying entirely on electric ion engines to reshape their orbits and maintain their positions for up to two decades.

The launch marks the debut for a new lightweight satellite bus called the Boeing 702SP, which differs from other communications satellite platforms with the removal of the large fuel tank that forms the core of most spacecraft.

Half of the weight of most communications satellites is taken up with fuel, sometimes carrying up to 5,000 pounds of liquid propellant for in-space maneuvers. The innovation of the Boeing 702SP allows satellite operators to order smaller spacecraft that can host extra communications capacity to replace the mass freed up with the removal of the fuel tanks, said Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International Inc.

“One of the big drivers was cost,” Spiwak said. “We’re able to get the launch cost significantly reduced, get more payload mass to orbit, and reduce the overall cycle time of (building each satellite).”