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

Orbital Propulsion Centre


Artemis telecommunications satellite recovery mission Video

Artemis mission saved by 0.015 N ion proplsion system.





 The Artemis (Advanced Relay Technology Mission) satellite was launched aboard Ariane 5 on 12th July 2001. Aboard Artemis was a RITA ion propulsion system, planned as an experiment for controlling perpendicular drift to the orbital plane.


Artemis is designed for operation in a geostationary orbit (36,000 km). However, due to an upper stage malfunction, Artemis was injected into a low elliptical orbit having an apogee of 17,487 km, instead of the targeted geostationary transfer orbit of 35,853 km.


Using its onboard chemical propulsion, Artemis was raised to a circular orbit of 31,000 km within a few days of launch. But that left 5000 km remaining to reach its geostationary operational orbit. The only possible option available for raising the orbit was to use the RITA ion propulsion system - for which it was not planned.


Before using just the ion propulsion system, new strategies had to be put in place, including new onboard control modes, a new station network and new flight control procedures.


After having established and validated the new software strategies, ion propulsion characteristics and other preparations, orbit raising using just the ion propulsion system commenced on 19 February 2002.


With a thrust of just 0.015 N, the RITA ion propulsion system raised the orbit of Artemis by just 15 km per day until operational geostationary orbit was achieved. Again, RITA broke yet another world record - the first orbital transfer to geostationary orbit using ion propulsion - an unplanned role for which the original RITA experiment was neither planned nor designed.


More about the Artemis Satellite and its Recovery.