The GSAT-9 heralds low-cost electric propulsion

The South Asia Satellite or GSAT-9 will in its newest space mission, take a new role in making the highly developed Indian spacecraft much lighter and resilient. The advanced equipment will also help reduce the cost of fuel loads and space launches in the near future.

The GSAT-9 machine that weighs about 2,198kg is likely to take off on the GSLV grounds this coming May 5. The equipment is powered by an electric propulsion system and it’s one of its kinds to ever fly on Indian spacecraft.

According to the Director of the ISRO Satellite Centre, Dr. M. Annadurai, the new satellite will fly with only about 80Kg of chemical fuel, which is almost 25% less of what it usually carries in the space. Hence managing the spacecraft in the orbit will be more cost effective and valuable in the long run.

Critical Factor

As the critical weight factor becomes a major concern for the most sophisticated satellites, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has plans to launch heavy rockets as an alternative to distributing them on costly foreign boosters. The ISRO’s own automobile GSLV MkIII is ready to take off its flight test.

The satellite’s electric propulsion system (EPS) will be used to control the spacecraft when it’s

released into space, which takes about two weeks, and throughout its stay up until the mission is successfully completed.

On average, the communication satellites normally carry about 200-300kg of chemical fuel propellants up in the space. The fuel loads are intended to sustain the spacecraft used for space missions which take place 36,000km away from the earth, for about 12 -15 years. ISRO is now trying to launch the use of EPS as an alternative means to keep up the long-term space missions.

Basing on Dr. Annadurai analysis, the agency usually consumes about 25-30kg of fuel annually to uphold its roles and orbit location in the space. The new technology of using the EPS is more efficient in rectifying the initial position of the orbit after the launch and it would reduce the amounts of money spent on fuel. The xenon-based EPS is known to be 5-6 times more effective than the chemical-based propellants.

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