Press Release

European Space Propulsion Receives European Space Agency Contract for Qualification of 5-Kilowatt Hall Thruster

By SpaceRef Editor
March 17, 2015
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European Space Propulsion (ESP), a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, was awarded a contract valued at approximately €11 million from the European Space Agency (ESA) for the flight qualification of the 5-kilowatt XR-5E Hall Thruster. The contract was issued under the European Space Agency Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) initiative, with targeted application on telecommunication satellites.  The goal is to explore, through research and development activities, innovative concepts that produce leading-edge Satcom products.  Within the overall ESA ARTES initiative, the ESP programme falls under the ARTES 3-4 classification, which is focused on the development, qualification and demonstration of products.  Funding support for this ARTES 3-4 programme was provided by the UK Space Agency.

ESP’s ARTES 3-4 programme includes the establishment of manufacturing capability at ESP for the industry-leading XR-5 Hall Thruster, the only 5-kilowatt class Hall Thruster with proven flight heritage.  This capability will include the design and manufacturing details for the thruster and will use the experience gained at Aerojet Rocketdyne to provide a strong offering into the expanding European market. Under the ARTES 3-4 programme, ESP will develop a new ThermoThrottle Xenon Flow Controller (XFC) that will be combined with the Belfast-built thruster, to create a new European XR-5E thruster and XFC.

“The telecommunications satellite market is trending toward increased use of high-power electric propulsion and improved affordability,” said Paul Sinton, managing director of European Space Propulsion. “Our objective at ESP is to meet both those needs by bringing the highest-performance, longest-life, five-kilowatt Hall Thruster together with a simplified XFC and produce it in the lower-cost environment in Northern Ireland.  This project represents a significant investment by Aerojet Rocketdyne and demonstrates a high level of confidence in the migration toward electric propulsion in the European market.”

At the start of the ARTES 3-4 programme, ESP will generate a requirements document focused toward encompassing the needs of the Geosynchronous (GEO) Comsat platforms as well as other key programs of interest, such as next-generation Galileo, the European global navigation satellite system.  The ESP ARTES 3-4 programme will build a series of engineering and flight qualification model hardware, with validation testing conducted at each phase.  The final flight qualification test programme will validate that the XR-5E thruster meets all defined requirements.  Also, a number of system integration tests and power processor coupling tests will be performed.

ESP’s parent company, Aerojet Rocketdyne, has delivered 16 flight XR-5 Hall Thrusters to date, of which 12 have flown on three GEO Comsat missions.  The XR-5 is the only electric propulsion product that has successfully demonstrated full electric propulsion orbit-raising of a GEO Comsat from Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit to GEO. To date, 64 XR-5 Hall Thrusters covering three different GEO Comsat platforms have been ordered, with additional platform selections and orders expected.

European Space Propulsion, a UK-registered company located in Belfast is a provider of In-Space Propulsion products for the European space market.  Aerojet Rocketdyne is a world-recognized aerospace and defence leader providing propulsion and energetics to the space, missile defence and strategic systems, tactical systems and armaments areas, in support of domestic and international markets. GenCorp is a diversified company that provides innovative solutions that create value for its customers in the aerospace and defence, and real estate markets. Additional information about Aerojet Rocketdyne and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies’ websites and . For more information about ESP, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.