Boeing stirs interest in new bird

Boeing’s giant space division says that its new 702SP satellite, which uses sophisticated all-electric propulsion, is capturing significant interest from the world’s satellite operators. Exactly a year ago, it surprised the market with news that it had secured a four-satellite order for the 702SP model from Asia Broadcast Satellite and Mexico’s SatMex.

At the Satellite 2013 show in Washington on March 19 it confirmed that it was now working on 14 separate project bids for the new concept.

The 702SP model can potentially ignore conventional chemical propellant and thus save around one-third of the craft’s launch mass, thus significantly cutting costs and potentially extending dramatically the satellite’s life in orbit. There’s even the potential to use this weight-saving on additional components, or devices to boost a satellite’s coverage or functionality. This could include giant reflectors to boost signal power and leading to much smaller dish sizes.

Besides these ‘on orbit’ advantages, satellite operators can also save cash because the lower launch weight means that two satellites could now be launched on ILS’ Proton rockets, as well as upon the Space X rocket launchers.

Europe’s satellite builders have not been slow to say that they can also match the Boeing concept. Astrium and Thales Alenia are both working on their own versions of the concept.

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