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Ion Propulsion Offers Cost Savings For Deploying Satellites

By | November 5, 2003

      PARIS–The planned deployment of radiofrequency ion thrusters (RIT) in satellites later this decade could produce savings of up to 15 million euros ($17 million) per mission, compared to traditional chemical propellant, said Thomas Frohlich, the project manager of electronic propulsion at EADS Space Transportation.

      The intent is to begin the critical design review phase of the ion thrusters in 2004 and qualification testing by 2007, Frohlich told SATELLITE TODAY. Once the technology is proven, EADS officials envision working with satellite manufacturers to develop lighter and less expensive satellites that could be launched for a fraction of the current price. The ion thrusters would require only one-tenth or less of the propellant mass now required using traditional chemical propellant.

      Testing of the ion propulsion technology already has reached 47,000 hours, including 7,000 hours of in-orbit service with the Artemis satellite, Frohlich said.

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