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Boeing Orders Saft Batteries for Initial All-electric Satellites

The Satmex 7 satellite (above) will use lithium-ion battery packs for propulsion. Credit: Boeing artist's concept

PARIS — Battery manufacturer Saft of Paris will provide lithium-ion battery packs to power the first batch of Boeing 702SP all-electric satellites under a multimillion-dollar contract, Saft announced Dec. 5.

Under the contract, whose precise value was not disclosed, Saft’s Cockeysville, Md., plant will deliver battery packs for the four 702SP satellites Boeing is building for commercial fleet operators Asia Broadcast Satellite of Hong Kong and Mexico’s Satmex.

The two operators have ordered two 702SP satellites each, inaugurating a new product line for Boeing and introducing the world’s first all-electric commercial telecommunications satellites.

Using electric propulsion instead of conventional chemical fuel saves up to 50 percent of a satellite’s launch weight, allowing owners to save on launch costs. The tradeoff is that with electric propulsion it takes several months for a spacecraft to reach final geostationary orbit.

The ABS-3A and Satmex 7 satellites are scheduled to be launched together aboard a Falcon 9 rocket operated by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif. Each satellite will weigh between 1,900 and 2,100 kilograms at launch.

The two other satellites ordered under the same contract will be completed later.

The satellites will be capable of generating 8 kilowatts of power to their payloads. Saft said it will be delivering the batteries in 2013 and 2014.

Boeing’s order with Saft is the fourth contract under a long-term supply agreement the companies concluded in 2009. Saft is Boeing’s supplier for other, larger geostationary-orbiting telecommunications satellites using heavier versions of the 702 platform, including satellites in orbit or under construction for Intelsat, Inmarsat, Mexsat and SkyTerra.

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