Electric propulsion gets a boost from TAS

The PPU Mk3 power supply for plasma thrusters. Image credit: TAS-B Thales Alenia Space Belgium (TAS-B) has announced that its PPU Mk3 power supply for plasma thrusters has now been qualified. The new unit is designed to power the plasma thrusters used by all-electric propulsion (all-EP) satellites in the 5 kW class.

The development and qualification of the PPU Mk3 was supported by the Belgian government and by ESA through the Competitiveness & Growth element of the ARTES programme.

The Mk3 is the third generation of TAS-B's plasma thruster power supplies. The company has previously supplied 35 Mk1 and Mk2 units for respectively 1.5 to 2.5 kW plasma thrusters to Europe's three satellite prime contractors.

Thanks to this extensive flight heritage, TAS-B has already been able to book fifteen flight orders for the new unit, including six from TAS France for deployment in the framework of Spacebus Neo, part of the ESA-supported ARTES Neosat programme to develop a mid-sized (3-6 tonne) satellite platform that is designed for both chemical and all-EP.

Electric propulsion, also called plasma propulsion, has emerged in recent years viable alternative to chemical propulsion for telecoms satellites. By considerably reducing the weight of propellant that needs to be carried into orbit, all-EP satellites will have lower launch mass and/or higher capacity. The large quantity of propellants needed for conventional propulsion systems is replaced by a small quantity of xenon gas for the plasma thrusters.

On future all-electric telecoms missions, TAS-B's PPU Mk3 can provide all the electrical power that the plasma thrusters require for orbital positioning and station-keeping.

“Our industry partners have all congratulated us on the results of tests using our PPU Mk3 with different 5-kW class plasma thrusters,” says Patrick Bury, Vice President, Sales and Programs at TAS-B. “TAS-B's expertise in power supply units for plasma thrusters has been recognized for over 16 years. One of the first units delivered was used on the legendary Smart-1, Europe’s first lunar probe.”

“TAS-B delivered outstanding results in this ARTES C&G supported actiivty,” says ESA's Xavier Geneste, Senior Spacecraft Engineer. “For good reason it is now market leader in this technology, which will only grow in importance as we enter the era of all-EP telecoms missions.”

According to TAS-B, the first flight model of the new power supply is currently in manufacturing.


Published 29 March 2016
Last updated at 29 March 2016 - 06:29