Getting ready for space

Leybold, a brand within the Atlas Copco Group, helps world-wide communication by supplying top-class vacuum equipment for satellite testing.

The number of communication satellites sent out in orbit keeps growing. As method of movement, modern spacecrafts use so called electrical propulsion, where ionized particles are accelerated inside ion thrusters. These engines, most often fuelled by xenon gas, are a big challenge to vacuum pumps as they need to maintain a process pressure in the high vacuum range while high-energy ions are emitted at a large flow. Vacuum specialist Leybold, a brand within the Atlas Copco Group, offers an optimized and simple solution for xenon pumping, and produces huge systems to test those electrical propulsion devices.

The tests can last several months in which the pumps need to supply a constant performance, and this is where Leybold’s expertise truly kicks in. Forevacuum and turbomolecular pumps first create a high vacuum to remove the disturbing air. Then highly effective cryopanels freeze the emitted xenon gas to reach the required vacuum level. Automatic control helps the engineers and scientists qualify that the propulsion devices are ready for space.

“In this critical and demanding application, our customers not only benefit from the high expertise we have, but also from Leybold being a full-line supplier for vacuum technique”, explains Stefan Lausberg, responsible Application Engineer. “Leybold has a very long history of supporting Research & Development of Space Technology.”