The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending OHB System AG EUR 30 million to finance research and development under ESA’s Electra programme, in which OHB is developing a fully electric satellite propulsion platform designed to substantially reduce satellite’s propellant mass and increase its propellant life and
re-allocation capabilities. The EU bank’s loan is backed by a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). EFSI is an essential pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe (IPE), under which the EIB and the European Commission are working as strategic partners to boost the competitiveness of the European economy.
The planned new satellite platform under the Electra programme will operate in the three tonne mass category. Such a system has hitherto not been commercially available in Europe. Electric propulsion has until now been used only for scientific satellites or in-orbit station keeping of telecommunications satellites. ESA’s Artemis communications satellite first successfully tested the principle of reaching a geo-stationary orbit after separation from the launcher by means of electrically produced ionised gas expulsion.
The trades show that electric propulsion saves up to 70% of propellant mass compared to chemical propulsion. With the same satellite launch mass, payload mass and performance are doubled. And with the same payload, the satellite launch mass is almost halved. With specific payload costs for platform and rocket launch halved and additional propellant on board for extension of life, satellites clearly become more commercially attractive. This represents an important milestone in improving the international competitiveness of the European space industry. With the continuing trend in the international space industry towards the privatisation and commercial use of space, this is crucially important.
EIB Vice President Ambroise Fayolle, responsible for Germany, emphasized: “OHB and Electra are a perfect fit with the innovation priorities that the EU bank is supporting under EFSI to strengthen Europe’s competitiveness. Electra is a forward-looking strategic project that is helping Europe to secure its competitive position in the global satellite industry, with a particular view to the development of a satellite-based commercial telecommunications market”. The Vice-President also stressed that this first-time cooperation with OHB underscored “the role of public sector lenders in stimulating the mobilisation of private capital to foster innovation in a dynamic and sustainable way.”
European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "Supporting research in the latest space industry technologies is a key component of the Commission's space strategy. I am delighted to attend today's event to welcome the news that the EFSI is playing a valuable role in achieving this effort by backing OHB's ambitious research programme. By investing today, we can ensure that Europe will remain a leading player in this evolving, competitive market."