JAXA eyes electric thruster technology as satellite market heats up

posted on October 26, 2015

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is studying the feasibility of using electric propulsion in artificial satellites beginning in fiscal 2021 to save fuel and improve performance.

Competition is intense for making communications and broadcast satellites, which take geostationary orbits about 36,000 km above Earth’s equator.

Satellites use their own engines to get into orbit and control themselves. Since their chemical propellants can account for as much as half a satellite’s weight, limiting equipment space, ion engine technology and other forms of electric propulsion are being pursued.

Electric thrusters are weaker than chemical-based engines but boast higher efficiency and consume only about one-fifth of the fuel. The Hayabusa spacecraft, which harvested particles from asteroid Itokawa and brought them back to Earth in June 2010, used an ion engine to complete the seven-year voyage.

U.S. and European manufacturers are leading the development of electric engines, but JAXA could start development in fiscal 2016 starting next April if its budget is approved.


source by japantimes
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