Aerojet, QinetiQ and EADS enter ion-thruster joint venture

Aerojet, an aerospace and defence-focused GenCorp company, along with QinetiQ and EADS Astrium Crisa, have entered into a joint agreement to supply the XENITH (Xenon Ion Thruster) ion propulsion system to the worldwide commercial spacecraft market.

Built around the T6 ion thruster developed by QinetiQ, the XENITH propulsion system is claimed to provide a reduction in propellant consumed by more than a factor of 12 over conventional chemical propulsion systems.

Ion propulsion systems have been used for orbit raising and station keeping of satellites, as well as for primary propulsion in deep-space missions.

The T6 ion propulsion technology is based on the lower-power T5 system, which provides precision atmospheric drag compensation for the successful GOCE gravity mapping mission operated by ESA.