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A sophisticated telecommunications satellite that can be completely repurposed while in space has launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Developed under an ESA Partnership Project with satellite operator Eutelsat and prime manufacturer Airbus, Eutelsat Quantum is the first commercial fully flexible software-defined satellite in the world.
The satellite – which will be used for data transmission and secure communications – was launched on board an Ariane 5 on 30 July from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
It has since reached geostationary orbit some 36 000 km above Earth, where it has deployed its solar array and is communicating well with its operator on Earth.
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 or planes. The beams also can be easily adjusted to deliver more data when demand surges.
The satellite can detect and characterise 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.
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.
ESA Partnership Projects develop sustainable end-to-end systems, right up to in-orbit validation.
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, enabling it to succeed in the highly competitive global telecommunications markets. Investing in space creates jobs and prosperity on Earth.”