Boeing Co. announced last week that it has completed the primary structures of the world’s first pair of all-electric satellites, which are expected to be delivered late this year or early next.
The company said work on the electric satellite project is about two-thirds complete. All the engineering, manufacturing and testing work is being done at Boeing’s El Segundo facility.
Electric engines, or ion engines as engineers call them, have been used as a component in satellite propulsion since the 1990s. Boeing’s will be the first satellites to operate entirely without chemical engines.
“We’ve been flying electric propulsion on our satellites for 20 years now,” said Bruce Chesley, vice president of business development at Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. “The way we are thinking about it is we are taking the training wheels off and letting the electric propulsion do the job all by itself. … It’s really just getting the market comfortable with it.”
It turned out that the market is very comfortable with it, for it’s a much more affordable launch option.
Without carrying chemical fuel, satellites will become 10 times lighter and thus 10 times more efficient, Chesley said. The cost of getting the satellite into space also comes down because lighter payloads allow rockets to carry two all-electric satellites instead of one.
Getting rid of chemical fuel also makes the manufacturing process easier and safer, as those chemicals are usually hazardous to handle.
“We had been working internally on a prototype activity for this and we had projections for when we will sell that into the commercial marketplace,” Chesley said. “Market demand forced us to accelerate that.”
Boeing struck deals to sell the all-electric satellites to Asia Broadcast Satellite and Satélites Mexicanos in 2012, which he said was well ahead of Boeing’s expectations.
Atlas Carpet Mills, a high-end manufacturer of commercial floor-covering products, was acquired in early march by Dixie Group Inc., a Chattanooga, Tenn., maker and marketer of carpet and rugs.
Other than saying it was an all-cash deal, the companies did not disclose terms.
Atlas, based in Commerce, will operate as a separate brand within Dixie’s portfolio. Most of its operations, such as coating, inspection and shipping, will continue as usual. There will be no changes of administration, product development and sales functions, but Atlas’ dyeing operations will be consolidated into Dixie’s Santa Ana facility.
“Atlas has a very strong sales force and excellent brand equity in the marketplace, which should maximize our opportunities for growth,” Daniel K. Frierson, Dixie’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.
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