The experimental ion propulsion system designed to test a new form of technology for station-keeping on future satellites is performing well in its new role to get ESA’s Artemis to geostationary orbit and save the day.

The Artemis (Advanced Relay and TEchnology MISsion) communications satellite, built by Alenia Spazio as prime contractor, was launched by Ariane 5 last summer. After launch the spacecraft was left in a far lower than intended orbit, with insufficient conventional propellant even to raise it to its nominal orbit. Adapting the use of the ion propulsion system combined with unconventional operation of the chemical-based thrusters, offered a daring solution.

Following more than six months of intense preparation and testing, the challenge of having to implement new in-flight software and control strategies using electric propulsion for the orbit raising is finally paying off.