A team of engineers and technicians at Lockheed Martin has completed the integration of the Hellas-Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1, a “condosat” to be jointly owned by Arabsat and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). The milestone is important because it is the first satellite based on a modernized version of Lockheed’s A2100 platform.

Hellas-Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1 in a cleanroom. Source: Lockheed Martin

The upgraded A2100 includes a hybrid propulsion system integrated with the payload module and transponder panels. The new propulsion system will use a liquid apogee engine to move into its orbital slot and electrical Hall current thrusters for stationkeeping. Electric propulsion is becoming more popular on satellites because it is much more efficient, and enables a similar lifespan to chemical-propulsion systems while using less fuel, thereby saving weight. Some satellites even use electric propulsion to move into their intended orbit even though the systems are slower than chemical-propulsion units.

Hellas-Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1 is being built under a two-satellite order signed between Lockheed Martin and Arabsat in April 2015. The contract is worth $650 million, including manufacturing and launch of both satellites by 2018.

The concept of condosats is also becoming more popular in the satellite industry. It enables satellite companies to share the cost of expensive satellites, while also gaining access to orbital slots they may not have had access to any other way.