Eutelsat Quantum - a new generation communication satellite
The Eutelsat Quantum satellite of Paris-based Eutelsat Communications marks a revolutionary step forward for commercial satellites, offering unprecedented customization and flexibility. 1)
1) A pioneer in the field of commercial satellites
The Eutelsat Quantum satellite is a world first, marking the start of a new era of commercial satellites. Putting agility and flexibility in the hands of our customers, the satellite paves the way for dynamic resource management to meet changing demands in realtime.
Traditionally, commercial satellites are designed for a fifteen year lifetime. However, with a three-year procurement and building phase, their design must take into account the needs to be addressed over a cycle of eighteen years, despite evolving markets and commercial environments.
Eutelsat Quantum's revolutionary approach can be summed up in one word: flexibility. Flexibility in coverage, power, frequency and bandwidth. Each of these features can be reconfigured in-orbit throughout the satellite's lifetime, to efficiently serve applications and ensure optimal use of resources at all times. Customers will no longer have to predict market requirements or anticipate changes in the future: with this new way of managing day-to-day operations they will be able to tailor coverages to their immediate needs.
2) A software-driven satellite
Eutelsat Quantum represents the culmination of many years of research and evaluation driven by Eutelsat, and supported by major partners such as the ESA, the UK Space Agency, and Airbus.
Powerful operational software ensures that the payload resources are used as efficiently as possible, to predict, operate and manage the on-board configuration and reconfiguration of the satellite. This level of flexibility requires the ability to accurately simulate, optimize and control the satellite once it is in orbit.
Our customers will have their own software to implement the on-board configuration they require, while operators manage and operate the satellite in its optimal configuration without interference within the satellite or with other nearby satellites.
3) A new standard of customization
The satellite's flexible behavior enables it to adapt to its environment, giving customers in the government, mobility and data markets the ability to vary coverages based on their immediate needs and allocate resources between beams and regions, optimizing their capacity use. The majority of Eutelsat Quantum's capacity has already been reserved, notably by American operator, Peraton, demonstrating the commercial interest in the satellite.
While Eutelsat Quantum's flexibility in terms of coverage, power and spectrum reconfiguration is significant, its beam tracking and hopping capabilities extend its boundaries even further. Beam reconfiguration enables Eutelsat Quantum to track mobile terminals. For example, in the marine industry, a beam can now be reconfigured to seamlessly track the progress of a terminal across an ocean, without having to lease multiple beams to cover the relevant regions.
4) A forerunner in tomorrow's space industry
Eutelsat Quantum is leading the way for a paradigm shift in building telecommunications satellites.
Taking inspiration from Eutelsat Quantum, satellites built according to a standard specification and configured in orbit could be mass produced, unlike the custom-made production of traditional satellites, which are configured during construction. Eutelsat Quantum could be the first step in a "quantum leap" forward for the satellite communications industry, while at the same time meeting the evolving needs of our customers.
Figure 1: Scheduled for launch in 2019, the EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite is a revolutionary step forward for commercial satellites, offering unprecedented customization and flexibility (video credit: Eutelsat SA, Published on Feb 26, 2018)
Table 1: Some background of the EutelSat Quantum program 2)
Eutelsat Quantum will be the first generation of universal satellites able to serve any region of the world and adjust to new business without the user needing to procure and launch an entirely new satellite. Featuring phased array antennas and flexible connectivity, which is fully reconfigurable in orbit, Quantum will be able to adjust its coverage and capacity to suit customers' needs as and when they change.
Airbus used its Portsmouth facility to develop the adaptable telecoms payload, and its subsidiary SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd) in Guildford to make the spacecraft bus, or chassis. The new new spacecraft bus for beyond-LEO applications, called VAMP (Versatile Altitude Mini-Platform), can carray a 500 kg payload. Possible missions include geosynchronous telecommunications, in-orbit servicers, or interplanetary missions. VAMP draws from the GIOVE-A, a navigation satellite launched for the European Space Agency in 2005.
The first Quantum satellite will have a launch mass of 3,500 kg and an all Ku-band communications payload mass of 450 kg. It will be launched using conventional thruster propulsion and will have a designed lifespan of more than15 years.
Eutelsat Quantum represents the culmination of many years of research and evaluation driven by Eutelsat, and supported by ESA, the UK Space Agency, and Airbus. Powerful operational software ensures that the payload resources are used as efficiently as possible, to predict, operate and manage the on-board configuration and reconfiguration of the satellite. This level of flexibility requires the ability to accurately simulate, optimize and control the satellite once it is in orbit. Eutelsat's customers will have their own software to implement the on-board configuration they require, while operators manage and operate the satellite in its optimal configuration without interference within the satellite or with other nearby satellites.
A new standard of customization: The satellite's flexible behavior enables it to adapt to its environment, giving customers in the government, mobility and data markets the ability to vary coverages based on their immediate needs and allocate resources between beams and regions, optimizing their capacity use. The majority of Eutelsat Quantum's capacity has already been reserved, notably by Peraton, demonstrating the commercial interest in the satellite.
• August 6, 2019: Manufacturing delays and launcher availability mean Eutelsat Communications' "chameleon satellite" won't launch until the second half of 2020 instead of late this year as planned. 3)
- The setback means Paris-based Eutelsat, having just overcome a delay with a consumer broadband initiative in Africa, will have to defer a second growth effort, this one focused on government connectivity.
- Eutelsat Quantum is a software-defined, reprogrammable satellite from Airbus Defence and Space and its British subsidiary Surrey Satellite Technology Limited. The European Space Agency helped finance the satellite, which carries new technologies for changing the size, shape and power of satellite beams.
- European launch provider Arianespace is contracted to launch the satellite on an Ariane 5 rocket.
- Eutelsat now projects revenue from Quantum to start in fiscal 2021, CEO Rodolphe Belmer said during a July 31 earnings call. Belmer said Quantum is expected to generate significant revenues starting in fiscal year 2021 since a substantial portion of its capacity is already reserved.
- Eutelsat said in 2018 that U.S. defense contractor Peraton had booked the majority of Eutelsat Quantum's capacity. Belmer estimated the satellite will generate around 40 million euros annually, similar to the average across its constellation of nearly 40 geostationary satellites.
• May 15, 2019: The payload and platform of the first European satellite that can be completely reprogrammed after launch have been successfully joined together. 4)
Figure 2: The communications module of Quantum is slowly lowered onto the service module (image credit: ESA, Airbus)
- The assembly of Eutelsat Quantum took place in the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, on 10 May.
- The satellite has been developed as an ESA Partnership Project with satellite operator Eutelsat and satellite manufacturer Airbus, under ESA's program of ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications System), leveraging on SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd), which provided the satellite's innovative platform.
- Eutelsat Quantum will allow its users to actively define and shape the performance and reach they need from the satellite.
- Because Eutelsat Quantum takes a software-driven approach, changes can be made while it is in orbit, such as adjusting the satellite's coverage, frequency and power, which enables it to operate from any orbital position.
Figure 3: Photo of the Quantum satellite after mating of payload and service module (image credit: Airbus)
- The successful mating of the payload and platform demonstrates the excellent capabilities of Airbus, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and their suppliers, both in the conception and the realization of the new technologies deployed in this innovative satellite.
- ARTES Partnerships Projects help European and Canadian space industries to develop new products and services, supporting the introduction of novel technologies and solutions that might not otherwise reach the market.
- The Quantum partnership has the strong backing of the UK Space Agency and includes Airbus UK as prime contractor and payload provider. With Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, Airbus UK manufactured and integrated most of the satellite's cutting-edge equipment.
- The completed satellite will now be tested under the harsh conditions needed to simulate both launch and the space environment in which it will orbit the Earth.
• January 9, 2019: SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.) has completed the build of the platform for Eutelsat Quantum, the world's first geostationary telecommunications satellite that will be fully reconfigurable in orbit. Today, the SSTL satellite platform was handed over to Airbus who will complete the satellite assembly and testing in Toulouse. 5) 6)
- The Eutelsat Quantum platform consists of a precision-engineered composite central thrust tube standing at 2.5 m tall which houses a bipropellant chemical propulsion system that will enable the satellite to stay on station throughout its 15 year lifetime, and SSTL's newly developed GEO momentum wheels and gyro which will maintain the satellite in a stable attitude and enable adjustments in the satellite's orbital position.
- 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 actively engaged in seeking new opportunities."
- Quantum has emerged from a project initiated in 2014 and originally codenamed "AnySAT".
Figure 4: The partners for the Eutelsat Quantum mission are pictured. From left to right: Stéphane Lascar, ESA Head of the Telecommunications Satellite Program's Department, Sarah Parker, SSTL Managing Director, Yohann Leroy, Eutelsat Deputy CEO and Chief Technical Officer, and David Phillips, Airbus UK Head of UK Program (image credit: SSTL)
Figure 5: A video showing the build of the platform for the Eutelsat Quantum telecommunications satellite at SSTL. The platform consists of a composite central thrust tube housing a bipropellant chemical propulsion system, GEO momentum wheels and gyro which will maintain the satellite's orbital position (video credit: SSTL,Published on 9 January 2019)
Figure 6: Artist's rendition of the deployed EutelSat Quantum spacecraft (image credit: ESA)
Launch: EutelSat Quantum launch arrangements were made with Arianespace for a launch in 2019. 7) — However, manufacturing delays and launcher availability mean Eutelsat Communications' "chameleon satellite" won't launch until the second half of 2020 instead of late this year as planned (Ref. 3).
Orbit: GEO (Geosynchronous Orbit).
1) "Four things you should know about Eutelsat Quantum," Eutelsat, 26 February 2018, URL: https://www.eutelsat.com/en/news.html#/blog_posts
2) "'Universal' Eutelsat Quantum satellite to revolutionize telecoms markets. Eutelsat Quantum Public-Private Partnership signed by Eutelsat, ESA, Airbus Defence and Space," Eutelsat Press Release, 9 July 2015, URL: https://www.eutelsat.com/en/news.html#/pressreleases/universal-eutelsat-quantum-satellite-to-revolutionise-telecoms-markets-1190652
3) Caleb Henry, "Eutelsat CEO: Quantum satellite delayed, C-Band Alliance divided on treasury contribution," Space News, 6 August 2019, URL: https://spacenews.com/eutelsat-ceo-quantum-satellite-delayed
4) "Reprogrammable satellite takes shape," ESA, 15 May 2019, URL: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Telecommunications_Integrated
5) "SSTL completes small geostationary platform build for EUTELSAT QUANTUM," SSTL Press Release, 9 January 2019, URL: https://www.sstl.co.uk/media-hub/latest-news/2019/sstl-completes-small-geostationary-platform-build-
6) "World-First chameleon satellite leaving native British shores," ESA, 9 January 2019, URL: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Telecommunications_Integrated_Applications
7) "Eutelsat signs long-term multiple-launch service agreement with Arianespace," Arianespace, 10 September 2018, URL: http://www.arianespace.com/press-release/eutelsat-signs-long-term
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).