Electric propulsion could launch new commercial trend
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: March 19, 2012
WASHINGTON -- Boeing's announcement last week of a contract to build up to four communications spacecraft with all-electric propulsion for Asian and Mexican customers could shift the commercial satellite industry's trend for larger, heftier platforms requiring powerful rockets to launch them into orbit, officials said.
The deal includes firm orders for two satellites, Satmex 7 and ABS-3A, for launch in late 2014 or early 2015 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two other unidentified satellites for Satmex and Asia Broadcast Satellite would launch together in 2015 on another Falcon booster.
After 15 years of electric propulsion in its communications satellite program, Boeing says it is now ready to offer an all-electric version of its Boeing 702 spacecraft platform.
"About 15 years ago, we launched the first electric propulsion system," said Stephen O'Neill, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International Inc. "We've got systems up there that are commercial, government and classified, and we haven't lost one minute of operation in orbit yet. That led us two years ago to make a significant investment in electric propulsion."