Spaceflight Insider

Boeing to build third all-electric satellite for ABS

Artist’s rendition of the ABS-8 satellite

Artist’s rendition of the ABS-8 satellite. Image Credit: Boeing

Boeing has been tapped by ABS, a commercial satellite provider, to build the ABS-8 spacecraft. This will be the third all-electric propulsion satellite that the company has requested. All three of these spacecraft are based on the small platform 702SP. The large aerospace firm views this decision as being driven by the quality and performance of these spacecraft.

“The decision by ABS to order a third Boeing 702SP satellite is a testament to our customer’s confidence in the capabilities of this satellite,” said Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International, Inc. “With the innovative all-electric propulsion design, Boeing is able to maximize payload while decreasing overall satellite mass and cost.”

If everything goes according to schedule, the ABS-8 satellite should be delivered in 2017. It will be used to expand broadcast and enterprise services to Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Russia, as well as South and Southeast Asia.

Unlike chemically propelled satellites, Boeing’s 702SP spacecraft uses a Xenon Ion Propulsion System (XIPS ) for both station-keeping and orbit-raising maneuvers. It allows significant mass advantage, due to the removal of the fuel tanks, enabling significant cost savings.

“The 702SP uses an all-electric propulsion system that relies exclusively on xenon as the propellant,” Joanna E. Climer of Boeing Network and Space Systems, told SpaceFlight Insider. “With the all-electric propulsion design, Boeing is able to maximize payload while decreasing overall satellite mass and cost.”

She added that with a lighter satellite mass, two 702SPs can be launched together in a Boeing-patented stacked configuration aboard the same launch vehicle — essentially cutting launch costs in half for customers who choose to launch their satellites together.

Climer also underlined XIPS’ advantages when it comes to environment protection concerns as well as human safety.

“Xenon is an environmentally responsible, inert, non-hazardous element. Unlike other propulsion systems that use hazardous liquids as a propellant, with the xenon-ion propulsion system (XIPS ), there are no chemically hazardous operations for personnel at the satellite facility, during transportation, or at the launch site,” Climer told SpaceFlight Insider.

The Boeing 702SP can operate in the S-, X-, C-, Ku, and Ka-band frequencies and — as with all Boeing 702 types — is designed to provide 15 or more years of satellite service with additional fuel capacity to enable multiple station changes over the life of the satellite.

ABS-8 will replace ABS-7 at the 116.1degE orbital location. The ABS-8 payload will include traditional wide beam coverage and a high-powered Ku- and Ka-band multi-spot high throughput satellite (HTS) configuration.

With a payload of more than 9 kW (kilowatts), it will be the highest power payload to date to fly on a Boeing 702SP.

ABS’ first all-electric propulsion 702SP satellite (ABS-3A) was launched earlier this year in a stacked configuration using Boeing-patented technology. A second ABS 702SP satellite (ABS-2A) is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter.



Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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