Electric propulsion activities are currently being carried out at a fast pace for application on new generation of telecommunication and scientific satellites. Crisa, in partnership with Astrium GmbH for the electronics, and QinietiQ, as supplier of the Kaufman Ion Thrusters, are leading the development of ion electric propulsion in Europe.
T5 based Electric Propulsion System (GOCE)
GOCE satellite: the first satellite dedicated to measuring the Earth’s gravity
Measuring and modelling the Earth’s gravity will significantly advance our knowledge of how the Earth works in several domains – oceanography, geophysics and geodesy – as well as providing insights into the physics and dynamics of the Earth's interior, such as volcanism and earthquakes
Crisa, Astrium GmbH and QinetiQ combined their efforts to develop the T5 ion propulsion system for ESA's GOCE mission. The system provides an excellent atmospheric drag compensation in the range of 1 to 20 mN ± 12 µN. One of the key elements of this system is the Ion Propulsion Control Unit (IPCU), designed by Crisa, which provides power conditioning and control to the ion thruster. The IPCU includes the high and low voltage supplies and the associated current, voltage and temperature measurements. Control is achieved by an ERC 32 CPU. The positive high voltage of 1200V, used to accelerate the ejected beam ions, is provided and precisely regulated by the beam supply modules designed and manufactured by Astrium GmbH.
Alphabus High Power Electric Propulsion System (HPEPS)
In geostationary telecommunication satellites, the high specific impulse (SI) Ion Propulsion technology can significantly reduce the mass of propellant required for North South Station Keeping (NSSK), orbit topping and end of life de-orbit manoeuvres. The resulting propellant mass savings, which can amount to hundreds of kilograms, could enable extended mission lifetimes, reduced launch costs, house larger payloads or a combination of these advantages,
The HPEPS was selected by ESA as the best technical solution for Alphabus, the new large European communications satellite. The HPEPS is based on Crisa's Power Supply and Control Unit (PSCU) coupled with the QinetiQ T6 Kaufman ion engine. The design, architecture and development of the PSCU is based on the practical experience gained in the design, development, qualification and manufacture of the Ion Propulsion Control Unit (IPCU) and is conducted by the same industrial team.
For Bepi-Colombo mission, studies are presently running on system design and architecture.