If we can have electric cars, why not electric rockets and satellites?

We can.

An electric propulsion system for use on satellites in the Air Force Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) finished a demonstration, Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] announced.

The Lockheed/Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] TSAT Space Segment team demonstrated a High Power Hall Current Thruster (HPHCT) electric propulsion system.

Developed by Lockheed and Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. [GY] unit, the Hall Current propulsion technology provides significantly improved fuel efficiency over conventional chemical propulsion systems.

The Hall Current Thruster system will be used for both orbit transfer, as well as on-orbit station keeping. Orbit transfer includes moving a satellite into its permanent orbit, while on-orbit station keeping involves offsetting the decay of a satellite orbit that occurs over time.

Aerojet has over 30 years of experience developing and supplying the electric propulsion needs for critical military, civil and commercial satellites.

Leveraging the highly-successful 4.5 kW Hall Current Thruster System for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) program, the TSAT-developed HPHCT yields a greater dry mass to orbit capability, enabling the Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman TSAT Team to provide a low risk cost-effective solution for the TSAT program.

When operational, TSAT will provide thousands of military users with wideband, highly mobile, beyond line-of-sight protected communications to support network-centric operations for the future battlefield.

TSAT represents the next step toward transitioning the Department of Defense protected communications satellite architecture into a single network comprising multiple satellite, ground, and user segment components. The system ultimately will replace the Milstar and AEHF programs and provide the Global Information Grid network extension to mobile warfighters, sensors, weapons, and command, control, and communications nodes located on unmanned aerial vehicles, piloted aircraft, on the ground, in the air, at sea or in space.

The TSAT team also includes Juniper Networks, Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., ViaSat, Carlsbad, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, Gaithesburg, Md.

That team currently is working under a risk reduction and system definition phase contract. This effort will culminate with a multi-billion dollar development contract to be awarded to a single contractor late this year.

The Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing in the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the TSAT contract manager and lead agency handling the program.