CHEOPS very high-power building block: Mission analysis

CHEOPS very high-power building block Mission analysis

Horizon Europe project CHEOPS VHP BB consortium partner Thales Alenia Space has performed a task of mission analysis to determine several mission performances based on various electric propulsion configurations, with different power levels, gases (as propellants) and supply voltages.

From the perspective of electric propulsion system architecture, it is important that the performance range of a given Hall Effect Thruster (HET) is considered. The study shows 20kW Very-high-power (VHP) thrusters gain in power efficiency, improving subsystem and overall spacecraft performances. VHP HET are still under development and will not be flight proven before the 2030.

Globally, electric propulsion divides by 3 or 4 the propellant mass (which allows to increase transported mass and to reduce cost) with respect to chemical propulsion, and largely increase trip duration (weeks or months instead of days), compatible with cargo and not for Crew.

CHEOPS-VHP-BB results demonstrate cost effectiveness and high performances for a variety of In-orbit Servicing (IOS) and exploratory missions where VHP HET is an enabler.

The first analysed mission is a Cislunar one. Cargo based on CHEOPS VHP BB could support US Artemis and ESA Terra Novae.

The second one is to carry geostationary satcoms from LEO or GTO to GEO.  Powerful solar electric propulsion is reducing transfer orbit duration by several months, corresponding to an early telecommunication use (earlier incomes and less degradations).

Some other possible missions are to carry scientific spacecraft even in L2 Sun Earth Lagrange point located at 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. 

The deployment of tens, hundreds or thousands of satellites to build constellations is also effective.

A 20 kW Hall Effect Thruster provides excellent high performances for cargo Terrestrial and inner solar interplanetary missions. Optimization of mass versus trip duration is possible with a large capacity of adaptations based on a choice of propellants and supply voltages.