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Electric propulsion: a solution for the future constellations of satellites

By 2022, a quarter of satellites in geostationary orbit will use electric propulsion. The principle behind this is that xenon ions are ejected from the engine by an electric and/or magnetic field powered by the satellite's solar panels. By using a gas like xenon as propellant, we can cut the satellites' weight in two.

Air Liquide supplies the gas, manufactures the satellites' filling cart and the xenon flow control system (XFS). We developed a micro-valve to regulate helium flow in ExoMars rover's chromatograph. The technology is being developed with the CNES to adapt it to the challenge of electric propulsion. Weighing just a few grams, these micro-flow regulators, which operate by thermal expansion, are a miniaturization challenge.

 "The microvalves developed for ExoMars are perfectly leak-tight. We can't afford to lose a single molecule of Xenon. At tens of thousands of euros per normal cubic meter, it's vital.”

Why choose us?

  • 01

    Our experience

    We have worked on all the developments for the European launch vehicle, Ariane, as well as numerous international projects, including the International Space Station; the Planck, Herschel, and Microscope satellites; and the Curiosity and ExoMars exploration rovers, among others.

  • 02

    The expertise of our teams

    Our employees are passionate about their work. Our results-minded approach and wealth of expertise have allowed us to make great strides and are now leading us to even more ambitious technological challenges, from launch vehicles with reignition capability and electric propulsion for satellites, to life on Mars...

  • 03

    Our capacity for innovation

    Our innovation teams rely on Air Liquide's expertise and close collaborations with public research laboratories, like the CEA, the CNRS, and the Grenoble University Space Center.