World’s first all-electric propulsion satellite ABS-3A commences service

Posted on 14 Sep 2015 by Tim Brown
An artists' rendering of the world's all-electric propsulsion satellite, ABS-3A, on-orbit and operating in space - image courtesy of Boeing
An artists' rendering of the world's all-electric propsulsion satellite, ABS-3A, on-orbit and operating in space - image courtesy of Boeing.

The world’s first all-electric propulsion satellite, built by Boeing for Bermuda-based telecommunications operator ABS, is now operational after an on-orbit handover on August 31.

The ABS-3A, a 702SP (small platform) satellite, expands ABS’ communications services in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The satellite, the first ever to feature an all-electric propulsion satellite system, was launched on March 1 as part of a Falcon 9 rocket mission by SpaceX.

The ABS-3A spacecraft’s all-electric xenon-ion propulsion system contains a sufficient quantity of the inert, non-hazardous element xenon to extend the satellite’s operations beyond the expected spacecraft design life of 15 years.

“With a successful launch, testing and execution of orbit operations, we were able to deliver the first 702SP to ABS about one month earlier than planned,” said Mark Spiwak, president, Boeing Satellite Systems International.

“The 702SP product line was designed to bring the latest technology into the hands of customers seeking adaptable and affordable solutions. In addition, the 702SP’s patented dual-launch capability helps customers share launch costs, which can significantly lower overall expenses for a satellite owner.”

Boeing said the all-electric propulsion satellite technology is 10 times more efficient than liquid-fueled rockets with the xenon powered 702SP satellite able to maintain position in orbit while using only 5 kg (11 lb) of fuel per year.

Boeing is under contract to build a second 702SP satellite for ABS, designated ABS-2A, which will be delivered and launched early next year.

“The operational ABS-3A satellite and ABS-2A, launching in early 2016, will further strengthen and solidify our global expansion and offer flexible capacity to our growing fleet,” said Tom Choi, CEO of ABS. “We believe Boeing’s innovative portfolio can help us to affordably grow now and in the future.”