THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to try out electric propulsion on its satellites. The project, if successful, will increase the life and payload capability of satellites.
The technology, being developed by various ISRO units, will soon be tested first in a GSAT communication satellite, ISRO officials said.
“Our plan is to experiment it on the GSAT-9 communication satellite during March-April 2017. Initially, electric propulsion will be used only for the station-keeping of the satellite, which include adjusting the satellite’s orbit,” Dr K Sivan, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), which is one of the ISRO centres involved in the project, said.
At present, satellites carry on board liquid fuel and oxidiser to power their thrusters for adjusting the orbits and other station-keeping purposes. This fuel accounts for 40-50 per cent of the mass of a satellite. The idea is to develop a satellite which fully replaces liquid fuel with electric propulsion.
“This will enable us to increase the life of the satellite by at least four years and to have more applications aboard a satellite. At present, the life of a 2,000-2,500 kg communication satellite of the GSAT class is 10-12 years,” Sivan said.
ISRO units ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) and VSSC are mainly involved in the project. The 75 mN thrusters needed for the project have been designed. The satellite which will use electric propulsion for station-keeping will, in future, be followed by an all-electric propulsion one.
A satellite becomes defunct when the on-board fuel runs out and it starts drifting away from its orbit.
Then it is classified as ‘space junk’, becoming a potential threat to other satellites. GSAT-9 is slated to be put in orbit by a Mk-II version of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).