Artemis, the telecommunications and data relay satellite built by Alenia Spazio as prime contractor to the European Space Agency, has made significant progress in reaching its working orbit. Thanks to the experimental ion propulsion system developed by experts from ESA, Astrium and Alenia Spazio, Artemis has passed the first milestone of raising the orbit altitude by 1,000 km and is approaching geostationary orbit at about 20 km a day.
Artemis was launched on July 12th last year, but a malfunction in the Ariane 5 launcher left the satellite in a lower than intended orbit. An innovative solution was found by adapting the use of the ion propulsion system combined with the unconventional operation of the chemical-based thrusters.
The success of these new strategies, after over six months of preparation and testing, means that Artemis should reach geostationary orbit by the end of the year and have an operational life for as near to the planned five years as possible.