Boeing’s satellite manufacturing arm announced a significant four-satellite order from Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) and Satmex. The satellites will be wholly dependent on electrical propulsion using a Xenon-Ion system. These satellites will not have conventional chemical propulsion, thereby saving build costs, launch costs and getting more speedily to market. The contracts were signed in Washington on March 12.
The first four launches (Boeing has an option on a further four XIPS satellites) will be handled by SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket. The first pair (ABS-3A and Satmex-7) should launch at the end of 2014-early 2015.
The first two satellites under this contract will be readied in 32-34 months, but subsequent craft should take only about 24 months to build and to be ready for launch.
Boeing Satellite Services’ president Stephen O’Neill said 18 satellites were currently flying with XIPS systems on board, although none were wholly dependent on electrical propulsion.
Because the satellites will be some 2 tonnes-2.5 tonnes lighter than a similar craft with conventional chemical propulsion, it means that they can be launched in pairs, permitting further savings for the satellite operators.
It is also known that Luxembourg’s SES is looking closely at its options in regard to all-XIPS propulsion (see separate story).