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Propulsion Systems

UPS Background
UPS Modular Integration

Space Propulsion Systems

An overview of the range of space propulsion systems developed and produced at Airbus Space Systems, Lampoldshausen.

Airbus Space Systems, Lampoldshausen has become Europe's leading supplier of monopropellant and bipropellant propulsion systems for a diverse range of satellites, spacecraft and space related applications. Our propulsion systems and sub-systems are typically used for:


  • Orbital satellites and spacecraft.
  • Interplanetary spacecraft.
  • Automated resupply missions to the International Space Station.
  • Space station orbit raising.
  • Attitude, orbital and roll control of launch vehicle upper stages.
  • Launch vehicle roll control.
  • Control of re-entry vehicles.
  • Space platforms.

Propulsion Systems for Satellites and Spacecraft

For over 40 years, the Lampoldshausen team have been supplying propulsion systems and sub-systems in support of hundreds of major international satellites and spacecraft. More information on each of these spacecraft and their propulsion systems hardware can be seen in the Spacecraft Propulsion Heritage Catalogue.

Unified Propulsion Systems (UPS)

Meteosat Unified Propulsion System. Meteosat Unified Propulsion System

First pioneered by the Lampoldshausen team, Unified Propulsion Systems have now become a standard used by satellite manufacturers around the world. The Lampoldshausen team realised that the separate systems, required for spacecraft apogee injection, orbit control and attitude control, could be unified into a common system.


The unified system takes advantage of a common propellant tank system that feeds both the apogee motor and multiple thruster clusters. The unified propulsion system is therefore more compact, less complex, relatively lightweight and enables maximum possible use of the available propellants.


Based on a modular sub-systems approach, the unified propulsion system has proven to be highly flexible for a variety of different satellite and spacecraft applications.


More about Unified Propulsion Systems

Interplanetary Propulsion Systems

NASA / JPL Galileo. NASA / JPL Galileo

A Lampoldshausen propulsion module powered the NASA / JPL Galileo spacecraft on its tour to the planet Jupiter and its moons. NASA extended the mission three times to continue taking advantage of Galileo's unique capabilities for accomplishing valuable science and the propulsion module continued to perform flawlessly for an additional 6 years.


Galileo conducted the first asteroid flyby, discovered the first asteroid moon, was the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, and launched the first probe into Jupiter's atmosphere.


More information on Galileo's Propulsion Module.

Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Propulsion System

Automated Transfer Vehicle


The ATV is an automated resupply vessel that is used to periodically replenish stores and logistics for the International Space Station. This European craft provides an alternative means to the US Space Shuttle for resupplying the International Space Station.


Due to its proximity manoeuvres and docking to the Space Station, the propulsion system is of necessity man-rated. Once docked, the ATV becomes a pressurised and integral part of the space station for up to six months. During this time, the ATV can be loaded with up to 6.5 tonnes of waste material for removal.


The ATV propulsion system is also used for Space Station orbit raising, de-docking, departure manoeuvres and de-orbitation.


The Lampoldshausen centre is responsible for the production, integration and acceptance testing of the:

  • 200 N Attitude Control and Braking Thruster.
  • propulsion module pressure control assemblies
  • Propellant Isolation Assembly


Qualification of the propulsion module was carried out at Lampoldshausen's hot-fire test facility.


More information about the 200 N thrusters and the ATV Propulsion System.

Upper Stage Attitude and Orbital Control Systems (AOCS)

AOCS Thruster Cluster. Ariane 5
AOCS Thruster Cluster

The Lampoldshausen centre not only supplies AOCS systems for satellites and spacecraft, but also AOCS systems for the upper stages of heavy and small launchers.


The AOCS enables roll and pitch control of the launcher after jettisoning of its solid rocket boosters. Thereafter, it is used for fine control manoeuvres and precision upper stage orientation before separation of one or more payloads.


More information about the Ariane 5 AOCS.


A derivative of the Ariane 5 AOCS is also planned for use on the Vega small launcher. Located in Vega's 4th stage, the AOCS will have the same multi-role functions as the Ariane 5 AOCS.


More information about the Vega AOCS.

Re-entry Vehicle Propulsion

ARD Re-entry. ARD Re-entry

Lampoldshausen's re-entry vehicle propulsion capabilities have been successfully demonstrated on ESA's Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator (ARD). The all hydrazine Reaction Control System (RCS) performed a flawless steering control throughout re-entry enabling a precision landing within the target area.


The Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator was a major step towards developing and operating space transportation vehicles capable of returning to Earth, whether carrying payloads or people. For the first time, Europe flew a complete space mission, launching a vehicle into space and recovering it safely.


More information about the ARD - RCS.

Electric Propulsion Systems

Ion Thruster on Test. Ion Thruster on Test

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


Lampoldshausen's ion thrusters, 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.


Propulsion of the future has now become a reality with Lampoldshausen's radio-frequency ion propulsion systems providing a specific impulse ten to twenty times higher than today's best performing liquid propellant rocket engines and 30% to 50% higher than alternative ion propulsion systems.


More about RITA Propulsion Systems and Artemis.


Propulsion Module Brochures (PDF)

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See the complete list of space propulsion product brochures available for download.