The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the launch of Eutelsat Quantum, a telecommunications satellite that can be completely reprogrammed in orbit.
Developed under an ESA Partnership Project with manufacturer Airbus and satellite operator Eutelsat, the flexible software-defined satellite was launched on board an Ariane 5 on 30 July from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. It has now reached geostationary orbit around 36,000km above Earth.
The satellite will be used by governments and in mobility and data markets and will remain in geostationary orbit for its 15-year lifespan, before being placed in a graveyard orbit away from Earth to minimise risk to other satellites.
According to the ESA, Eutelsat Quantum’s beams can be redirected to move in ‘almost real time’ to provide information to passengers on board moving ships, planes, trucks and other land-based transport. The beams can also be adjusted to deliver more data when demand increases, and can characterise rogue emissions allowing for response to accidental interference or intentional jamming.
Airbus was responsible for building the satellite’s payload and its phase array antenna was developed by the company in Spain. The new platform was manufactured by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL).
Ben Stocker, director of projects at SSTL said that the programme presented many challenges during 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 key 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 upcoming pathfinder missions,” Stocker commented.