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China launched the first satellite with a "powerful" electric motor - it will be kept in orbit for at least 15 years.

Published: 2023-01-14

On Friday, China launched an Apstar 6-E communications satellite with an electric propulsion system into orbit. It is claimed that the device is equipped with an unusually powerful electric motor that will keep it in orbit for at least 15 years. Details are not given, but engine power can be expected to fall in the range of 10 to 100 kW. China is actively developing electric rocket engines, which is important for flights within our system.

It is expected that the use of a 200-MW electric ion-driven engine will allow you to get to Mars in just 39 days. At the same time, ten times less fuel (reactive mass) will be required, which will allow taking on board more payload. For example, the Chinese Tiangong orbital station requires 400 kg of propellant (xenon or similar gas) for its four electric propulsion systems, while the ISS will use 4 tons of propellant for the same task in the same time.

Hall-effect electric rocket engines for deep space flights are being developed by all space powers. Such low-power engines have proven themselves well in near-Earth space, including the most massive withdrawal of such installations in the face of the Starlink group. But for flights beyond the moon, electric engines with a capacity of 5 to 500 MW are needed, which automatically leads to the transfer of nuclear power plants into space.

Returning to China, we note that back in the summer of 2021, it became known that the scientists of this country had conducted almost a year's tests of the HET-3000 electric motor with a power of 50 kW on Earth. For yesterday's Apstar 6-E, weighing 1.3 tons, such an engine would be too much, but it is quite acceptable to talk about approaching the border of 10 kW.