Sitael S.p.A. is one of the Companies owned by Angel holding (formerly Angelo Investments), a worldwide leading Transportation and Aerospace Group composed of synergic high-tech companies with more than 1000 highly skilled employees.
Sitael offers turn-key solutions to its customers, facilitating the access to space services and applications through Smart Microsatellite Solutions.
The in-house Design and Production of Small Satellites, the leading position in the Electric Propulsion, the use of cost-effective launchers for Low Earth Orbit missions are some of the ingredients to reduce the costs of access to space. Going through all the phases of mission analysis and budget definition, Sitael helps its Customers to make the right choices for their applications, always driven by a best value over cost criterion.
Counting on more than 380 skilled employees and state-of-the-art facilities, Sitael manages all the development and production phases, providing leading technologies and services for high-reliability applications.
Sitael has obtained quality assurance certifications ISO 9001:2008, SA8000 and official ESA/NASA standard certifications in order to guarantee highly qualified processes, increasing the quality of offered products and solutions.
The AETHER project will be managed by Sitael Propulsion Division. Sitael’s heritage in Hall thruster development dates back to 1994-1996, when the first prototype HET (a “first generation” 700 W system) was designed, realized and tested in a vacuum facility. In the following years HET activities continued under sponsoring from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), addressing many scientific and technological issues related to such devices.
Fundamental investigations were carried out to better understand the plasma dynamics in the ionization channel, the interaction of the electric propulsion thrusters’ plume with the spacecraft, the surface modifications and erosion mechanisms of the ceramics exposed to impinging high-energy ions. Moreover, a family of scalable, high-accuracy thrust stands were developed for the appropriate characterization of thruster performance along with the identification and implementation of extensive diagnostics for full plasma investigation.
Among the different EP design and test activities undertaken or currently on-going at Sitael, the extensive knowledge on high-power HETs gained with the development and testing of the 5 kW-class HT5k and the 20kW-class HT20k thrusters is certainly highly valuable in the frame of the present project. The thrusters were also tested with alternative propellants, including krypton and xenon-krypton mixtures and the HT5k was characterized when fed with an atmospheric gas mixture.
Sitael was the first company to demonstrate operation of an Air-Breathing electric propulsion device, denominated ram-EP, in a representative environment. The HT5k positioned in front of the system intake and fed with atmospheric propellant was employed as Particle Flow Generator in the test setup realized for validating the ram-EP concept. The positive results obtained, together with the design and testing heritage of an Air-breathing engine, constitute the core knowhow for the AETHER project and will be extremely valuable in the frame of the present development effort.