Eutelsat 172B on the road to Kourou
March 15, 2017
By Chris Forrester
Eutelsat’s first high-power all-electric satellite is being readied by builders Airbus for shipment to Kourou, French Guiana. It will be flown to Kourou on a special aircraft on March 20th.
Eutelsat 172B is a true giant, but its launch weight on April 25th will be about half that of many other satellite in its class. The reason is that E-172B is an all-electric satellite, weighing just 3500 kgs at launch. Its on-board all-electric propulsion will see the satellite raise itself slowly to its final orbit, and thereafter maintain its on-orbit position using its on-board thrusters.
“Using electric propulsion for initial orbit raising and all on-station manoeuvres has led to a substantial weight reduction, enabling the satellite to be launched in the Ariane 5 lower position and offering more competitive launch costs,” said Arnaud de Rosnay, Head of Telecommunications Satellites at Airbus.
“We are the first company to demonstrate full electric propulsion for satellites of this size and capacity,” said Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. “With this spacecraft we are clearly setting a new benchmark – enabling powerful and complex satellites to be launched in the most cost efficient manner.”
Innovative deployable robotic arms will be used to orientate the satellite’s electric propulsion thrusters and to control thrust direction and attitude as needed during the different phases of the mission. A proprietary network of ground stations around the world will allow Airbus engineers to control orbit raising operations until the satellite reaches geostationary orbit.
Eutelsat-172B will replace the existing satellite at the orbital slot (E-172A) which will be relocated to another position. E-172B hosts three distinct payloads that will strengthen Eutelsat’s capabilities across Asia-Pacific markets: a C-band payload, a regular Ku-band payload and a high throughput Ku-band payload designed for in-flight connectivity along Pacific air corridors. The satellite also incorporates other state-of-the-art features, in particular the flexibility to dynamically distribute power between the 11 elliptical beams in the high throughput payload.
The Asia Pacific region represents the largest opportunity for in-flight entertainment and connectivity services, with over 8,000 aircraft to be delivered to the region by 2034.
E-172B will take some 5-6 months to reach its final orbit, and is expected to enter service in Q3 this year.