A sophisticated telecommunications satellite that can be completely repurposed while in space has launched.
Developed under an ESA Partnership Project with satellite operator Eutelsat and prime manufacturer Airbus, Eutelsat Quantum has pioneered a new generation of satellites with the European space industry.
The flexible software-defined satellite – which will be used by governments and in mobility and data markets – was launched on board an Ariane 5 on July 30, 2021, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
It has since reached geostationary orbit some 36 000 km above Earth, where the spacecraft systems checkout was successfully completed.
Because the satellite can be reprogrammed in orbit, it can respond to changing demands during its lifetime.
Its beams can be redirected to move in almost real time to provide information to passengers on board moving ships, planes, trucks, lorries and other land-based transport. The beams also can be easily adjusted to deliver more data when demand surges.
The satellite can detect and characterize any rogue emissions, enabling it to respond dynamically to accidental interference or intentional jamming.
The satellite will remain in geostationary orbit for its 15-year lifespan, after which it will be safely placed in a graveyard orbit away from Earth to avoid becoming a risk to other satellites.
Eutelsat Quantum is a UK flagship project with most of the satellite developed and manufactured by British industry. Airbus is the prime contractor and was responsible for building the satellite’s innovative payload, while Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd manufactured the new platform. The innovative phase array antenna was developed by Airbus in Spain.
ESA Partnership Projects develop sustainable end-to-end systems, right up to in-orbit validation.
UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “By investing in ground-breaking international projects like this one, we are helping UK businesses transform science fiction into commercial advantage, resulting in jobs, growth, and innovation. This game-changing technology will ensure the UK continues to lead the world on telecommunications satellites and further bolster our growing space sector.”
Elodie Viau, ESA’s Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, said: “I am proud to witness the successful launch of Eutelsat Quantum, which is the result of an ESA Partnership Project. ESA fosters innovation in the space industry in the UK and across Europe and Canada, enabling it to succeed in the highly competitive global telecommunications markets. Investing in space creates jobs and prosperity on Earth.”
Ben Stocker, Director of Projects at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), said: “The EutelSat Quantum program presented many challenges for SSTL to overcome during the development of the satellite system design, mechanical design, propulsion system and key subsystems within the satellite platform.
“The skills and knowledge gained through successfully overcoming these challenges has enabled us to refine our engineering approach, especially for markets and applications where system reliability and availability are key requirements, and, with the continued support of the UK Space Agency and ESA, has put us in a very strong position to deliver our exciting upcoming pathfinder missions.”