Electric Vehicles in Space!


EVs in Space

Commencing countdown, engines on..

SpaceX completed its sixteenth Falcon 9 launch Sunday evening carrying the world’s first ever EVs (SpaceX calls them all-electric satellites) into orbit.

The communication satellites are outfitted with lightweight, all-electric engines, rather than conventional chemical propulsion systems. The engines are used to reach and maintain orbit.

The communication satellites are owned by Eutelsat. In an interview before the launch, chief executive, Michael de Rosen exclaimed that “The value of electrical propulsion is that it allows the satellite operator to need much less fuel than when the satellite has chemical propulsion.”

The advantage of an all-electric satellite is in the reduced weight, thus requiring less fuel to deploy and reducing costs. Their disadvantage is that it will take months rather than weeks to reach their operation orbits of 22,300 miles (35,800 km).

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although SpaceX’s website lists a Falcon 9 launch as costing $61 million.

Eutelsat’s satellites provide a range of mobile, internet, and other communications services. The all-electric satellites now expand the company’s services into the American markets.

A second pair of EVs (satellites) are scheduled aboard another Falcon 9 rocket later this year.

SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 launch is currently targeted for the end of March, from Cape Canaveral, Fla.


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18 Comments on "Electric Vehicles in Space!"

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I guess technically, the satalites are EVs, even though the launch system uses kerosene…

Beyond the initial 10 min. ride to LEO (low Earth orbit) and another 5-7 min. a bit later, these are fully electric propolsion. Both for establishing the final orbit shape and positioning at stationary location over the equator.

Remember ion-thrusters from Star Trek? Now reality … “Impulse power … slow speed ahead”.

Next up, finding some rare crystals to build a warp drive.

I just had a funny image of electric propellers spinning unsuccessfully against the vacuum of space…..

The satellites here actually use Xeon gas that is accelerated by an electric field to propel the craft.

Like Elon said after the Simpsons episode recently – to change your velocity in space you have to eject some material because there is nothing to push against.

Cool that’s the answer I was looking for. I wonder how many kwh’s of battery they have. They must also have solar panels.

Newtons principle is that the mass ejected times the velocity of it equals the net thrust. So ejecting something really heavy, like mercury, at very high velocities, can deliver thrust with very low total amount of material carried as propellant.

Since the drive is effectively an open to space electrostatic beam, it needs a vacuum or near vacuum to operate. The net thrust is low, but if you are not in a hurry, small thrust amounts add up. When a chemical engine burns in space, it is for only a second or so. Electrostatics burn for a long time, typically powered by sunshine.

Yeah, one of the consequences of using the lighter propellant (even if its ejected at a much higher velocity) is that the time to raise the orbit of the satellite from Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit to Geostationary Orbit is that it will take 6 months for the satellites to reach their final destination (3 WL and 115 WL) instead of about one month. So 6x orbit raising time, but the satellites are also going to get an extra 4.5 years (20 years instead of 15 years for the design life).

Use of mercury will only reduce the volume of the fuel needed, not the mass. For a given mass of fuel ejected at a given speed, xenon will be as effective as mercury. And mass is the overwhelming design constraint in spaceflight.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but what you propose is almost pointless.

“Humor… it is such a difficult concept”

RE: “the world’s first ever EVs (all-electric satellites) into orbit” … a twin first for Earth, but technically not the first human-built all-electric satellite to a orbit a world. 😉

The honor of 1st all-electric satellite goes to NASA_Dawn orbiting Vesta (a dwarf planet in our solar system. NASA_Dawn will later this week to be first spacecraft to orbit multiple worlds … about to enter obit of Ceres later this week. Ceres s another dwarf planet similar in size to Earth’s largest moon.
For details, or for updates see: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

Note: The Dawn mission is practically impossible for chemical rockets to preform. (Launching the mass of fuel beyond orbits is too costly unless fuel is sourced at each world). While SpaceX launched the satellites, it was Boeing that designed and built them. The weight in fuel savings now allows two satellites to be launched for the price of one.

We are entering a new era in travel … both in space and on the surface of many worlds! 8~)

FYI for InsideEVs followers Beyond Earth, all vehicles on a planetary body in our solar system are all-electric vehicles. ie: Moon, Mars, Venus, …, Earth being the oddball.

Ha! Excellent point. However, does Curiosity count as electric? It’s power source is thermonuclear.

It sure is. That’s just what generates the electricity.

That’s analogous to asking if a solar powered “anything” is electric because it uses the Sun.

The dawn of a new era, it’s great to be alive!

Might want to fix your article. There have been “EVs” in space for years. All of NASA’s Mars rovers are fully electric. Pathfinder was trekking around nearly 2 decades ago on the Martian surface. Dawn has been flying around (approaching Ceres) for a decade.

Space supercharging anyone…….

“First ever EVs” in orbit?

Hmmm, I rather doubt that. Electric space drives include ion drives and plasma drives. I’m pretty sure there have been previous test space vehicles using those types of drives.

Now, perhaps these are the first communication satellites to use an electric drive for what is essentially the final stage of the launch system; boosting the spacecraft from a lower orbit into a significantly higher one.

The FIRST true electric vehicle in space was the lunar rover on Apollo 15’s mission to the moon.


I was ‘glued to the tube’ for all the launches.