Orbital Propulsion Centre, Lampoldshausen, Germany ArianeGroup Home page of the ArianeGroup Orbital Propulsion Centre, Munich, Germany

Radio Frequency
Ion Propulsion


Electric Ion Space Propulsion Systems and Thrusters

Radio frequency ion propulsion for orbit raising, station keeping and deep space missions.



Our electric space propulsion expertise is based on the space proven Radio Frequency Ion Technology (RIT). Within this field, we produce complete propulsion systems, modules, thrusters and related components.



European research into radio-frequency ion propulsion was initially conducted in the 1960's by the University of Giessen, Germany. The Lampoldshausen propulsion centre then joined the development team in 1970 and undertook the industrial leadership for the development of the Radio frequency Ion Thruster Assembly (RITA).


Our first radio-frequency Ion propulsion system was successfully demonstrated aboard ESA's European Retrievable Carrier EURECA, launched by the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1992.


Ion thrusters from Lampoldshausen have set a number of world records for long duration operation, as well as the recovery of the Artemis satellite from a total loss to full recovery.


Advantages of RIT Technology include:




Integration of ion thruster.
Ion Thruster Integration
RIT2X ion thruster.
Ion Thruster - RIT 2X



Radio frequency ion propulsion flow schematic.
Radio Frequency Ion Propulsion Flow Schematic

Working Principles of RIT Technology

The radio frequency Ion thruster uses a high-frequency electromagnetic field to ionize xenon gas atoms to form a plasma containing free 'light' electrons and 'heavy' positive ions. The heavy positive ions are then accelerated by an electrostatic field before being ejected to cause thrust.


After the ions have been ejected from the thruster, electrons are added from a neutralizer. The plasma is thereby neutralized which prevents the satellite from becoming charged.



Radio Frequency Ion Thruster Family

Our family of ion thrusters provides for a range of diverse space missions with thrust levels from 50 µN through to 205mN. The portfolio comprises a family of three thrusters:


1) RIT μX

The RITμX thruster is the smallest in the range and is optimal for orbital manoeuvres of science mission requiring the highest precision. Thrust levels: 50 - 500 µN.


2) RIT 10 Evo

The RIT 10 Evo thruster is ideal for north south station keeping of GEO, LEO and MEO platforms. Thrust levels: 5mN - 15mN - 25mN.


3) RIT 2X Series

The RIT 2X Series thruster is the largest in the range and offers the best mass saving for an all electric spacecraft. Thrust levels: 80mN - 115mN - 168mN - 205mN.


Radio frequency ion thruster - RITμX
Radio Frequency Ion Thruster 
Radio frequency ion thruster - RIT 10 EVO
Radio Frequency Ion Thruster
RIT 10 Evo
Radio frequency ion thruster - RIT 2X series
Radio Frequency Ion Thruster
RIT 2X Series
Xenon tank module
Xenon Tank


GIESEPP  (Gridded Ion Engine Standardised Electric Propulsion Platform) Consortium

We are partners of the GIESEPP consortium which is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


Consortium Partners include the ArianeGroup, QinetiQ, OHB, CRISA / Airbus Defence and Space, AST – Advanced Space Technologies, Mars Space and the University of Southampton.



RIT Thruster Family Performance Data
Parameter RIT µX RIT 10 EVO RIT 2X
Thrust & Power
Nominal Thrust 50 - 500 µN 5mN - 15mN - 25mN 80mN - 160mN - 180mN - 205mN
Nom. Power > 50 W 145 W - 435W - 760W 2300W - 4300W - 4300W - 5000W
Functional Performance
Extended / on request 10-100µN,  300-3000 µN    
Isp 300 - 3000 s > 1900s > 3000s > 3200s >3800s >3400s >2700s >2800s
max. demonstrated >3500 s > 3400 s > 6000 s (RIT 22)
Divergence angle* < 17° < 15° < 25°
Total Impulse >10kNs up to 200kNs >1.1 MNs >10 MNs
Max Operational cycles >10000 >10000 >10000
Total Lifetime >20000 h >20000 h ** >20000 h
Ionisation RF-Principle RF-Principle RF-Principle
Acceleration Electrostatic Electrostatic Electrostatic
Grid system 2 Grids 2 Grids 2 Grids
Propellant Xenon Xenon Xenon
Mass 440 g 1.8 kg 10 kg
Diameter 78 mm 186 mm 330 mm
Length 76 mm 134 mm 220 mm
Random 20-60Hz + 9db/octave
60-400Hz: 0.5g^2/Hz
400-2000Hz: - 6dB/octave
Overall: 18.4 gRMS
20-50 Hz: +6dB/oct
50-1200 Hz: 0.32g^2/Hz
1200-2000Hz: -6dB/oct
Overall: 22.9gRMS
20Hz: 0.004g^2/Hz
100Hz - 250Hz: 0.1g^2/Hz
400Hz - 800Hz: 0.4g^2/Hz
2000Hz: 0.006 g^2/Hz
Overall: 8.1 gRMS
Sine 5-20Hz 11mm (0-peak)
20-100Hz 20g
Z - Axis:
5-18 Hz 11mm
18-35 Hz 15g
35-60 Hz 12g
60-100 Hz 6g
X-Y - Axis:
5-16.5 Hz 11mm
16.5-35 Hz: 12g
35-60 Hz: 8g
60-100 hz: 4g
5-20Hz: +- 10mm
20-100Hz: 35g
Shock 500Hz 100g
1000Hz 1500g
10000Hz 1500g
100 Hz: 10g
3000 Hz: 2000g
10000 Hz: 2000g
100 Hz: 10g
4500 Hz: 10000g
10000 Hz: 10000g
Operating Temperature -40°C to +160°C -75°C to + 140°C -50°C to +190°C
Non-Operating Temperature range -60°C to +160°C -85°C to +140°C -60°C to +190°C
North / South Station Keeping Small Satellite Medium GEO
Small GEO / LEO
Heavy GEO
Medium GEO
Small GEO / LEO
Primary Propulsion Electric Orbit Raising Small Satellite Small GEO / LEO
Small Satellite
Heavy GEO
Medium GEO
Small GEO / LEO
Ultra fine thrust control Heavy GEO
Medium GEO
Small GEO / LEO
Small Satellite
* Half angle 95%



More information:

Artemis recovery video

Electric propulsion video

Background and evolution of the Radio Frequency Ion Propulsion thruster family

Electric ion space propulsion brochure (pdf)
Ion Thrusters
(PDF Brochure)

Electric Propulsion Thruster Family  (pdf)

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