Air Liquide awarded two contracts in the satellite propulsion market

January 28, 2016

Air Liquide has signed two multi-year contracts recently, a total worth of € 20 million, for the supply of high purity xenon in the all-electric propulsion satellite market: one with Airbus Defence and Space, the world leader in high power electric satellites and one with Thales Alenia Space, leader in High Throughput Satellites. The worldwide demand for telecom satellites is driven by replacement of old satellites and business growth from new services.

Xenon is a very scarce gas on Earth. Air Liquide, world leader for xenon, uses its proprietary technologies to extract xenon from air and relies on diversified sourcing capabilities to ensure a sustainable supply. Advanced analytical equipment is used to produce customer-specific xenon, from standard to ultra-high purity, for the industrial, medical, electronics and space sectors.

Its density, potential for ionization and inertness make this noble gas extremely valuable for different applications, such as the electric propulsion of satellites. High purity xenon is used as propellant for the satellite’s orbit raising and station-keeping.

Satellite propulsion recently entered a new era with the development of all-electric engines, a breakthrough technology that has revolutionized the satellite industry. These engines use energy produced by the satellite’s solar panels to eject a gas (usually xenon), which then generates the thrust. All-electric engines increase the satellite’s load capacity by 50%, greatly reducing launching costs. In the coming years, at least one-third of the market is expected to switch to this technology.

Guy Salzgeber, Senior Vice-President, Europe Industries and member of the Air Liquide group’s Executive Committee, commented: We are proud to have been chosen by Airbus Defence and Space and by Thales Alenia Space as their technological partner for the supply of high purity xenon. Through these contracts, we are happy to contribute to the European leadership in satellite construction by bringing our expertise in the management of sourcing and in the supply chain of noble gases which it requires.

Air Liquide’s Industrial Merchant Business Line provides gas solutions to its customers, including industrial and specialty gases, application technologies and expertise, at every stage in their process. Across a multitude of industries, from multinational corporations to independent craftsmen, 20,000 people serve more than 1 million customers. In 2014, revenues were € 5,083 million.

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second-largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs more than 38,000 employees and generates revenues of approximately € 13 billion per year.

Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%), is a key European player in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital infrastructures. Thales Alenia Space is the natural partner to countries that want to expand their space program. The company posted consolidated revenues in excess of € 2 billion in 2014, and has 7,500 employees in eight countries.