Eutelsat Quantum, backed by funding from the British Space Agency and built in Britain by Airbus at Portsmouth and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) at Guildford, is the first in a new generation of fully reconfigurable satellites capable of responding in orbit to the changing demands of the Earth.
Until now, large satellites were configured on the ground for specific tasks that could not be changed after launch. Eutelsat Quantum’s coverage, bandwidth, power and frequency can all be changed in orbit.
Beams from the satellite can be redirected to switch between broadcast television functions, enabling data protection and recovery, to providing data connections to airplanes to improve communication for passengers. This flexibility means that satellite operators can offer a host of new and emerging applications such as the next generation of drones supporting the NHS or connectivity in driverless cars supporting road safety, all at the push of a button. one button, without having to wait years for custom equipment to be produced.
Named because of the leap forward it brings in space telecommunications, the satellite could also support government broadband services in remote and rural areas, and help monitor critical national infrastructure such as electricity supply. water, energy and agriculture.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
By investing in groundbreaking international projects like this, we are helping UK businesses turn science fiction into business advantage, creating jobs, growth and innovation.
This revolutionary technology will allow the UK to continue to be the world leader in telecommunications satellites and further strengthen our growing space sector, which already generates Â£ 16.4 billion in revenue per year and supports 45,000 jobs.
The UK Space Agency has invested Â£ 65million in Eutelsat Quantum, through the European Space Agency, in addition to the Â£ 170million expected from UK industry. Users should include governments, mobile communications, and data networks. It will provide extensive coverage of the Middle East and North Africa region, spanning Europe, Africa and Central Asia.
Going forward, all satellites are expected to be reconfigurable, enabling the next generation of space applications and supporting existing applications – such as telecommunications and Earth observation – that require the movement of large data sets. This will make the space more accessible, sustainable and contribute to the growth of the sector.
Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said:
I am proud to witness the successful launch of Eutelsat Quantum, which is the result of a partnership project with ESA. ESA fosters innovation in the space industry in the UK and across Europe, enabling it to succeed in highly competitive global telecommunications markets. Investing in space creates jobs and prosperity on Earth.
The launch, delayed in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic, took place last night (July 30, 2021) on an Ariane 5 launcher. Eutelsat Quantum’s final geostationary position is approximately 22,000 miles above Earth and it will enter service in October.
The 3.5 ton telecommunications satellite, the size of a delivery van, was developed as part of an ESA partnership project with French operator Eutelsat, satellite manufacturers Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.
The satellite consists of three main components. The payload was built in Portsmouth, the platform was built in Guildford, and the active receiving antenna was built in Madrid. These three components were assembled at the Airbus satellite test facility in Toulouse before being shipped to the launch site.
Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defense and Space in the UK, said:
The revolutionary technology we designed and manufactured here in the UK for Eutelsat Quantum confirms our position as the world leader in advanced satellite payloads. Last year, Airbus obtained 40% of the geo-telecommunications market, against an average share of 25%, and Eutelsat Quantum is a brick of this success story, which directly led to the development of our latest reprogrammable OneSat satellite.
Eutelsat Quantum demonstrates the value of partnering with space agencies to bring the latest technologies to market faster to provide enhanced services to customers and users around the world.
Ben Stocker, SSTL Project Director said:
The EutelSat Quantum program presented many challenges for SSTL when developing the satellite system design, mechanical design, propulsion system and key subsystems within the satellite platform.
The skills and knowledge gained from successfully overcoming these challenges has enabled us to refine our engineering approach, especially for markets and applications where reliability and system availability are key requirements, and, with support continuation of the British Space Agency and ESA, have put us in a very strong position to deliver our exciting future exploration missions.
Pascal Homsy, Technical Director of Eutelsat, said:
Congratulations to Arianespace and to the Guyanese Space Center teams for the successful launch of the Eutelsat Quantum satellite. The collaboration between Eutelsat, ESA, the British Space Agency and Airbus Defense and Space on this ambitious satellite program has resulted in a world first.
Eutelsat Quantum will provide services with unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in terms of coverage, frequency and power, enabling a complete mission redesign, at any orbital position. It is a testament to the spirit of innovation and expertise of the European space industry.
About 1,000 people worked on the project across Europe, including over 500 Airbus employees in Portsmouth and Stevenage, including payload design engineers, software engineers, spacecraft assembly teams, design office teams, payload manufacturing teams and supply chain specialists.
Future sales of technologies developed under the program are expected to create more jobs.