ABB powers progress at international space port

ABB powers progress at international space port

ABB’s UniSec switchgear safeguards power supply to essential infrastructure at the space port in French Guiana.

ABB is ensuring reliable power supply at the Guiana Space Center (GSC), the main space port of France and the European Space Agency, which is located to the northwest of the main town of Kourou

Increasing demands are being placed on modern buildings and infrastructure facilities and their electric power distribution. At the GSC, a wide range of buildings, for example, the facilities for the assembly of space rockets and satellites, and the storage of space rocket propellants, require reliable power distribution.

The French government space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), has therefore opted to upgrade their current installations with ABB’s UniSec medium-voltage switchgear to ensure an uninterrupted power supply. In ABB, CNES found a reliable business partner that met its challenge of ensuring smart design and versatile power distribution solutions.

“ABB’s technologies enable safe, secure and reliable power supply. Medium-voltage switchgear is a critical link in the distribution value chain and is integral to ensuring power availability and reliability,” said Alessandro Palin, Managing Director of ABB's Distribution Solutions within the Electrification business. “ABB’s proven technologies have been safeguarding power distribution all over the world for many years and we are delighted that our solutions have been selected to support space exploration as well.”

Standards and regulations laid the foundation for planning the power supply, yet when selecting the equipment, ensuring the highest levels of safety and an optimized total cost of ownership (TCO), while fulfilling all efficiency and technical requirements, were key considerations for CNES.

With UniSec, safety is ensured by fulfilling the requirements set in the internal arc classification of the IEC 62271 standard, as well as embedded mechanical interlocks in the switchgear. The switchgear has a withdrawable circuit breaker for a clear visual separation, and low operating costs are achieved thanks to the maintenance-friendly equipment. Furthermore, the available space is optimized thanks to the modular design of the switchgear, and it can be scaled easily to accommodate future expansion.

To protect, control, measure and monitor the network, ABB’s Relion® protection relays are installed in the switchgear. The fast communication relies on horizontal GOOSE-based technology. GOOSE (Generic Object Oriented Substation Events) is part of the IEC 61850 standard for power system automation.

As a safety precaution, at the time of a space rocket launch, the entire GSC site is powered by generators, and not by the normal power supply. In the switchgear, a double-switch disconnector panel with automatic transfer switch handles the switchover between the network and the generator.

In 2017, after evaluating the available options, CNES chose UniSec switchgear as the best-fit technical solution. As a result of the successful project execution and ABB’s support every step of the way, an additional order was placed in 2018.

Despite its geographical location on the north Atlantic coast of South America, French Guiana is an overseas department and region of France, and as such, a part of the European Union.

The GSC is the main European space rocket launch platform for Ariane and Vega rocket families. As of 2017, Kourou counts amongst the space ports with the highest percentage of successful launches, both successive and overall.

UniSec switchgear on the site
UniSec switchgear on the site

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader with a comprehensive offering for digital industries. With a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB is today a leader in digital industries with four customer-focused, globally leading businesses: Electrification, Industrial Automation, Motion, and Robotics & Discrete Automation, supported by its common ABB Ability™ digital platform. ABB’s market leading Power Grids business will be divested to Hitachi in 2020. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees.


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