Europe is to get its own “all electric” satellite bus. Under a public-private partnership agreement signed on 15 October between the satellite operatior, SES and the European Space Agency (ESA) the ELECTRA programme plans to build a medium-size all-electric satellite bus for use in geostationary orbit. Under the programme, the spacecraft manufactuer OHB System AG of Bremen, Germany, has been appointed as a subcontractor for the corresponding manufacturing design of the platform.
The move is seen by analysts as a response to the Boeing all-electric satellite offering. Such all electric satellites use electric propulsion to provide both orbit maintenance and orbit raising capability. The result is that smaller less expensive launch vehicles can be used to place the spacecraft into a low Earth orbit, leaving the spacecraft to raise itself to its Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) position. The downside is that this takes several months and can result in a much longer exposure to radiation than using conventinoal upper stage rocket propulsion as the spacecraft transits the Van Allen belts at a much slower pace.