Four Snecma plasma thrusters now in operation on Alphasat satellite

Courcouronnes, France – August 12th, 2013. Snecma (Safran) announced today that its four PPS®1350-G plasma thrusters on the Alphasat satellite, launched on July 25 by an Ariane 5 rocket for Inmarsat, were commissioned. The commissioning took place in successive stages, from August 9th to August 10th, as planned.

Alphasat is the first satellite built by Astrium using the new Alphabus platform developed jointly by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales). The satellite's four PPS®1350-G plasma thrusters, each rated at 1.5kW and developing 9 grams of thrust, will be used for North-South Station Keeping in the satellite's geostationary orbit, throughout its design life of 15 years.

"The successful commissioning of this system and our considerable in-orbit experience with other plasma thrusters provided by Snecma clearly validated our strategy in this sector," said David Quancard, head of Snecma's Space Engines division. "Using this technology instead of conventional chemical propulsion saves weight, extends satellite life and offers more operational flexibility. There is now huge demand from satellite prime contractors for plasma propulsion systems."

Snecma has developed electric thrusters for satellites for more than 30 years. Since 1991, the company has focused on the development of plasma propulsion systems. The first PPS®1350 thruster propelled ESA's Smart-1 lunar probe from Earth orbit to Moon orbit in a successful mission lasting from 2003 to 2006, logging some 5,000 hours of operation. Snecma has already delivered Thruster Module Assemblies (TMA) for seven Astrium satellites using the Eurostar 3000 platform, and in 2012 it delivered the Electric Propulsion Thruster Assembly (EPTA) for the first Small Geo platform, intended for the Hispasat AG1 satellite.

Snecma is now developing a family of thrusters and propulsion systems offering 3 to 100 grams of thrust to meet evolving market requirements. Demonstration tests since 2006 have generated conclusive results, enabling Snecma to offer electric propulsion solutions for satellite orbit transfer. ESA and CNES have already chosen four PPS®1350-E (2.5kW) and four PPS®1350-S (1.5kW) thrusters for the new Alphabus Improvement platform, to be used, respectively, for orbit transfer and Station Keeping.

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Snecma is part of Safran, an international high-technology group with three core businesses: aerospace, defence and security. Snecma designs, builds and sells propulsion systems for air and space, including a wide range of commercial engines that are powerful, reliable, economical and environmentally-friendly, led by the global best-seller CFM56 and the new-generation LEAP*. The company also makes world-class military aircraft engines, as well as rocket propulsion systems and equipment for satellites and launch vehicles. Snecma is a leading provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for civil and military aircraft engines, under the new EngineLife® brand, offering comprehensive support for customers around the world.

*CFM56 and LEAP engines are produced and marketed by CFM International, a 50/50 joint company of Snecma (Safran), France and GE of the United States.

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