Boeing first ‘all electric’ satellites

Satellite manufacturer Boeing Space has delivered its first pair of ‘all electric’ satellites. Built for Bermuda-domiciled ABS and Paris-based Eutelsat the two satellites are due for launch late next month by Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company.  The satellites will leave Boeing’s factory on January 19th for shipping to SpaceX’s launch site at Cape Canaveral.

Key fact for the two satellites is that they have all-electric propulsion, and no chemical elements. This makes the satellites significantly lighter and permit two of these lightweight craft to be launched aboard the same SpaceX rocket, a first for SpaceX.

The snag, however, is that once launched the satellites will take much longer to achieve their orbital slots.

The ABS craft (ABS-3a) is to be located at 3 degrees West and serve the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Mid-East.

Eutelsat’s snappily-named 115 West B craft was originally ordered in March 2012 as a Satmex craft for the Mexican operator. Eutelsat acquired Satmex a year ago and it now trades as Eutelsat Americas.

The satellites weigh about 1800 kgs, which is about half the weight of a normal chemically propelled satellite.

At the time of the original orders Boeing said that each craft would carry only about 350 kgs of Xenon propellant which will power their on-board electric thrusters. These thrusters operate extremely efficiently but at low speeds and the estimates are that it will be between 4 and 6 months before the satellites are in the correct orbital positions.

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