'The stuff of science fiction' Pioneering UK-designed satellite ready for assembly

Before now, telecommunications satellites were largely fixed, one off, custom machines designed for a specific use or market. But the EUTELSAT QUANTUM, commissioned by Eutelsat and built in Britain by Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) in Portsmouth and Guildford, will be able to adapt to new demands in coverage, bandwidth, power and frequency, which will enable it to operate from any orbital slot. depending on changing market conditions. The development of the core technologies which have been integrated into EUTELSAT QUANTUM is supported by the and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Dr Graham Turnock, CEO UK Space Agency said: “Communications satellites like EUTELSAT QUANTUM that can be reprogrammed to adapt coverage and connectivity in orbit could until recently be considered the stuff of science fiction.

“Through our €480m development funding in the European Space Agency’s ARTES programme, the government’s Industrial Strategy and partnering with industry leaders such as , we are helping UK businesses transform ‘the stuff of science fiction’ into commercial advantage, resulting in jobs, growth and innovation.

Yesterday, the satellite platform was on view to invited guests at a special event to mark the handover to Airbus, which will complete the satellite assembly and testing in Toulouse.

Sarah Parker, Managing Director of SSTL said: “The completion of our work on the Eutelsat Quantum satellite platform is an important milestone for SSTL as it represents our first venture into the global commercial telecoms satellite market.

“The design and assembly of this innovative spacecraft has enabled us to advance the knowledge and skills required to develop highly capable satellite products for the evolving telecoms market, where we are now actively engaged in seeking new opportunities.”

In November 2018, Paris-based Eutelsat and signed a new contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds which will see components and parts for two further communications satellites assembled in the UK, meaning six out of seven of the French company’s next satellites will be at least partially built in Britain.

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Yohann Leroy, Deputy CEO and CTO at Eutelsat said: “EUTELSAT QUANTUM is a world first and the culmination of many years of research by Eutelsat. 

“Its premium capacity will enable us to offer game-changing optionality and flexibility to our customers in the government, mobility and data markets, who will be able to operate and optimise capacity to adjust coverages in real time, and to do so autonomously.

“We are delighted to co-operate with our long-standing partners, the , the UK Space Agency and Airbus, and to be able to rely on the world-leading expertise within the UK space industry.”

Colin Paynter, Managing Director, Airbus Defence and Space UK, said: “Combining the payload expertise from Airbus in Portsmouth, and SSTL’s new geostationary platform provides a very sophisticated package for Eutelsat. The satellite is a world first, fully reprogrammable in orbit, and we’re looking forward to seeing it fly.

Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, added: “Eutelsat Quantum is an important programme for both the UK and ESA and a typical example of the success of the ARTES public-private partnership model.”

Britain is a world-leader in the field of satellite communications, with 25 percent of the world’s telecommunications satellites built here.

After Brexit, Britain faces being excluded from the Galileo satellite system, being developed as a rival the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS), despite having developed much of the technology involved and investing upwards of £1billion in the project.

But speaking in September, backed Britain to develop a superior, independent system, telling the BBC: “If we want to build our own system now we’d benefit from a lot of learning and we have a simpler project to deliver because it would not be a project that is being managed by 28 separate member states.

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“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do. It’s perfectly within our capability on the basis of the initial analysis we have made.”

The Government subsequently agreed to spend £92million on an 18-month feasibility study prior to green-lighting an alternative system.


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