Three of Europe’s latest line of all-electric Spacebus Neo satellites are in production, proving new materials and industry
Made of carbon-fibre reinforced polymer, this central tube supports the satellite, payload and propellant totalling up to seven tonnes at launch.
The tube was shipped in December from Ruag to Thales Alenia Space UK’s dedicated Electric Propulsion Integration Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The facility is now fully operational since its inauguration by the Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster with ESA astronaut Tim Peake in October 2016.
Over the next six months, engineers will assemble the propulsion module of the first Spacebus Neo satellite.
Fuel tanks, electric thrusters and steering mechanisms with the interconnecting harness and fuel lines will be built and installed. Staff from the Belfast facility received specialist training for this at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes France throughout last year.
In mid-2018, the first completed propulsion module will be shipped from Belfast to Thales Alenia Space France in Cannes to continue integration and test activities in preparation for launch of the first all-electric Spacebus Neo satellite in the second half of next year.
Three of these satellites have been ordered. The first is for Eutelsat and will provide broadband communication across sub-Saharan Africa from 2019.
The two remaining satellites are intended for the French government, and telecoms operator SES.
The Neosat cooperation between ESA and France’s CNES space agency is part of ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems programme.