How does satellite propulsion work?


Take an inventory of farmland or water resources, phone anywhere in the world, watch TV, go online, find your way with GPS... Although they're circling thousands of miles over our heads, satellites have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, and are continuously paving the way for new applications. In addition to the civilian uses offered by public and private operators, satellites are also used to defend our countries.


Safran plays an essential role on these satellites through our long experience as a supplier of chemical and electric propulsion systems for attitude and orbit control, reaching back over 30 years. Safran designs and produces thrusters and propulsion subassemblies used by satellites throughout their operating life. In particular, we are pioneer in electric propulsion systems, which significantly decrease the amount of fuel that satellites need to carry, thus reducing launch costs and environmental impact.


Towards all-electric satellites

Le propulseur à plasma stationnaire PPS®1350-E est utilisé pour le contrôle d’orbite et le transfert d’orbite des satellites et sondes spatiales.

Safran invents forward-looking solutions for orbital injection and stationkeeping, while meeting our customers demanding cost and availability requirements. Space is an increasingly competitive market, and electric propulsion addresses these issues by reducing satellite weight by 40% versus conventional chemical propulsion systems. For example, a 6-ton satellite with chemical propulsion could reduce its weight by 2 tons by switching to an all-electric plasma propulsion system, while still offering the same payload capacity and performance.

Safran is the plasma propulsion leader in Europe. We design and build a wide range of thrusters and propulsion systems for nearly all satellite applications, from orbital positioning to deorbiting. To meet growing market demand – by 2022, 25% of satellites will be all-electric – Safran has developed a new 5kW thruster designed for new-generation satellites, the PPS®5000. It was already chosen by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence & Space. To maintain our technological leadership in this field, and support commercial missions and scientific exploration, we continuously invest in R&D and carry out a number of advanced design studies for the French and European space agencies.


Safran Aircraft Engines: A leading rocket engine manufacturer, Safran designs, develops, produces and sells, alone or in partnership, engines and propulsion systems for satellites.

Safran Electronics & Defense: leader in high-performance space optics, Safran and its subsidiary Reosc develop cutting-edge solutions for satellites: telescopes, dioptric optics, special components, test equipment and navigation systems.

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