ARTES 33 Electra

Electra is the first Public Private Partnership programme developed under ARTES 33. It is being undertaken in cooperation with SES, one of the word-leading telecommunications satellite operators, with a global fleet of more than fifty satellites. 

The goal is to develop, launch and validate in orbit a telecommunications satellite system below three tons launch mass, based on an innovative platform using full electric propulsion for orbit transfer to GEO as well as for station-keeping.

While electric engines have been fitted to scientific spacecraft and to telecom satellites for stationkeeping in recent years, industry worldwide is looking to extend this trend towards raising a satellite to its intended geostationary orbit after launch.

ESA’s Artemis telecom satellite was Europe’s first experimental use of electric thrusters to raise a satellite to its target orbit. Artemis proved that electric thrusters are capable of performing the same task as conventional chemical propulsion but with up to 90% savings in fuel consumption.

Electra can offer power consumption and communication capabilities equal to those offered by larger mid-size satellites while keeping the launch mass low enough for small launcher vehicles, or to put together a larger payload for the same launch mass, which translates in both cases into significant economic benefits.

How is it implemented?

Electra offers to involved European industry the unique opportunity to develop and validate the new product in a commercially representative environment thanks to the PPP set-up with SES, which is proposing a mission that will validate and exploit the capabilities of the new platform.

The Electra programme encompasses both the development of the platform and the implementation of a mission in partnership with SES.

The programme will:

  • Allow a coordinated effort in realising a European “full electric propulsion” small geostationary satellite capability.
  • Provide in-flight heritage and in-orbit demonstration of the platform and associated new technologies in a representative telecommunication satellite mission, which is essential to gain market acceptance for a new platform product and, therefore, lead to future recurring exploitation.


Expected benefits

Electra will increase European Member States competitiveness and complement the existing European offer in other platform market segments, providing a capability for which demand exists and building flight heritage in the most credible and representative environment.

Current status

After successfully completing the preliminary design in Phase B1 in 2015, ESA, SES and OHB have signed the Electra Phase B2/C/D/E1 contract for the realization of what will be the first full-electrical satellite built by OHB System. The mission to be hosted on the first Electra flight will be defined at a later stage of the project, with a launch target of 2021.