LOGAN, Utah – In-space propulsion specialist Busek said that more than 100 of the company’s BHT-350 Hall-effect thrusters are operating in orbit on OneWeb communications satellites.
Airbus OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space, manufactures OneWeb communications satellites in Florida. Prior to the war in Ukraine, Airbus OneWeb Satellites purchased thrusters from Russia-based electric propulsion company EDB Fakel and Busek. When Western sanctions to penalize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine prevented OneWeb from buying Fakel thrusters, Busek increased production.
“Busek has a strong record of developing and flying novel satellite propulsion technologies, however our manufacturing capability was largely unproven,” Peter Hruby, Busek vice president, told SpaceNews by email. “The recent on-orbit commissioning of these 100-plus plasma thrusters validates Busek’s supply chain, manufacturing, quality and test approaches. From here we’re adding more product into the manufacturing mix.”
Natick, Massachusetts-based Busek announced the successful on-orbit commissioning of BHT-350 thrusters on 80 OneWeb satellites earlier this year.
OneWeb is Busek’s largest customer for Hall-effect thrusters delivered and in orbit.
“It was a major effort to get to this point and we’re thankful to the excellent teams at Airbus OneWeb Satellites, Airbus, and of course OneWeb,” Hruby said.
Data obtained to date “shows all of the thrusters are operational, which is a great thing,” Hruby said. “We’re watching closely as they perform their intended roles of electric orbit-raising, collision avoidance, and station-keeping for the constellation.”
The OneWeb order is one of the reasons Busek doubled production capacity last year. Busek is also producing 6-kilowatt Hall-effect thrusters for the NASA lunar Gateway Power and Propulsion Element being built by Maxar Technologies.