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Eutelsat Quantum - a new generation communication satellite

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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)

The development of the core technologies integrated into the Eutelsat Quantum project will be supported by ESA and the UK Space Agency within the framework of a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) signed today by ESA, Eutelsat and Airbus Defence and Space on the occasion of the inauguration of ESA’s new center in the UK. The Quantum satellite program is of the ESA Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES 33.3) program, supported by the UK Space Agency. Eutelsat Communications will commercialize and operate the satellite. 2)

The Quantum satellite is the first fully flexible, scalable and generic payload in Ku-band using the first GEO-platform from SSTL. The prime contractor of the project is Airbus DS. SSTL, a subsidiary of Airbus, was contracted to build the GMP-T small satellite bus platform.

Michel de Rosen, Chairman and CEO of Eutelsat said: “Eutelsat Quantum is the first of a new generation of satellite that has agility, adaptability, responsiveness and performance at its core. It is the culmination of many years of research and evaluation driven by Eutelsat, and marks a new age of maturity for the commercial satellite business. We are proud to be spearheading this initiative in partnership with ESA and Airbus Defence and Space with the support of the UK Space Agency.”

Eutelsat Quantum's in-orbit reprogrammable features will set a new standard in flexibility and will principally address markets that are highly changeable and mobile.

• For communications on the move, it will offer dynamic beam shaping and vessel-tracking capabilities that can be optimized for power and throughput as required by maritime, aeronautical and land-based transportation.

• For data networks, it will support the design of wide-area networks and dynamic traffic shaping, responding to demand where and when needed.

• For government users, it will provide rapid response for public protection and disaster recovery as well as secure control using the latest encryption technology.

Table 1: Some background of the EutelSat Quantum program 2)




Spacecraft

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 carry 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, power of 5 kW, 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.


Development status

• July 27, 2020: The first European satellite capable of being completely repurposed after launch — developed within an ESA Partnership Project — has concluded its radio-frequency tests at a specialized facility in Toulouse, France. 3)

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Figure 2: The first European satellite capable of being completely repurposed after launch — developed within an ESA Partnership Project — has concluded its radio-frequency tests at a specialized facility in Toulouse. Quantum is the first ever software-defined satellite, preparing the way for the next generation of telecommunication satellites that can be reprogrammed in orbit. It offers unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in coverage, frequency and power, which allows for complete mission rehauls including changes in orbital position (image credit: ESA)

- Quantum is the first ever software-defined satellite, preparing the way for the next generation of telecommunication satellites that can be reprogrammed in orbit. It offers unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in coverage, frequency and power, which allows for complete mission rehauls including changes in orbital position.

- Engineers involved in the Quantum Partnership Project from manufacturer Airbus, operator Eutelsat and ESA have developed new working practices that have enabled them to keep working during the coronavirus pandemic. This ensures that the satellite will be fully ready to launch later in the year.

- The radio-frequency tests are the last time that the payload of Quantum will be switched on until after its launch.

- Shawn Locke, ESA payload engineer for Quantum, said: “Due to the inherent flexible nature of the Quantum solution, the approach to validation was far from conventional, requiring a complex range of frequencies and configurations. We have been working closely in partnership with Eutelsat,Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd to ensure optimal spacecraft performance in orbit. This partnership has leveraged a valuable range of technical expertise from the different stakeholders, facilitating a successful design, build and test of this unique mission.”

- Silvia Fedi, another ESA payload engineer for Quantum, said: “The payload comprises a receiver section manufactured by Airbus in Spain and a processing and transmitting element developed by Airbus in the UK, employing hardware from all over Europe. It is a highly innovative architecture, providing unprecedented flexibility during operation. The teams have been working on this since 2015 and it is rewarding to see the culmination of these efforts as the satellite finishes the final validation.”

- The development of the Quantum satellite under an ESA Partnership Project has been an enabler for European industry, paving the way for the new generation of standardized telecommunications satellites, which will be more flexible and so more adaptable to customer needs once in orbit.

- ESA Partnership Projects allow European industry to maintain and continue developing their competitiveness on the worldwide commercial market and enable greater risk sharing, where ESA bears the risks related to the development of innovative solutions and the partner assumes the commercial risks to respond to market needs.

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Figure 3: Detail of Quantum satellite in radio-frequency test chamber. The first European satellite capable of being completely repurposed after launch — developed within an ESA Partnership Project — has concluded its radio-frequency tests at a specialized facility in Toulouse. Quantum is the first ever software-defined satellite, preparing the way for the next generation of telecommunication satellites that can be reprogrammed in orbit. It offers unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in coverage, frequency and power, which allows for complete mission rehauls including changes in orbital position (image credit: ESA)

• March 2, 2020: Quantum – the innovative software-programmable satellite ordered by Eutelsat under an ESA Partnership Project – has successfully completed its mechanical test campaign at the Airbus facilities in Toulouse. The test demonstrates the ability of the satellite to withstand the strong shaking that occurs during launch. 4)

- The project partners – ESA, manufacturer Airbus and operator Eutelsat – were very pleased by the excellent performance achieved.

- “After completion of the mechanical testing, we ran the satellite through a vigorous series of health checks. Despite exposure to the most extreme mechanical loads, this newly developed satellite, with a brand-new platform developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in the UK, performed outstandingly,” said Simon Weinberg, ESA project manager.

- Now that the environmental tests are over, the satellite will undergo one last verification cycle, which will include the final testing of its innovative and flexible payload, developed by Airbus in the UK and in Spain. — It will then be finally prepared for launch.

- The development of the Quantum satellite under an ESA Partnership Project has been an enabler for European industry, paving the way for the new generation of standardized telecommunications satellites, which will be more flexible and so more adaptable to customer needs once in orbit.

- ESA Partnership Projects allow European industry to maintain and continue developing their competitiveness on the worldwide commercial market and enable greater risk sharing, where ESA bears the risks related to the development of innovative solutions and the partner assumes the commercial risks to respond to market needs.

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Figure 4: Quantum satellite at the mechanical test facility in Toulouse (image credit: Airbus)

• November 21, 2019: Airbus, ESA and Eutelsat have presented the new ground-breaking multibeam active antenna payload today at Airbus in Madrid, Spain. Airbus’ ELSA+ (ELectronically Steerable Antenna+) is a first for commercial satellite communications in Europe. The versatility of its performance represents a step change for communications satellites with a spacecraft able for the first time to adapt to the customers’ business cases as and when needed by means of software control. 5)

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Figure 5: The ELSA+ antenna is a first for European commercial telecommunications. The satellite can be reconfigured in orbit, giving maximum flexibility to the operator (image credit: Airbus)

- The electronically steerable reception antenna, works in Ku-band with eight independent reconfigurable beams. This inherent flexibility enables the operator to reconfigure the radio frequency beams over the coverage zone, allowing for an unprecedented flexibility in multimedia and broadcasting services.

- In addition, these capabilities can be implemented on each beam either independently or simultaneously including hop up to several tens of predefined different configurations per beam (beam hopping).

- Another new feature is the capability of the antenna to mitigate possible interference, intended or not, thanks to its ability to GEO locate any interference and null them.

- This new antenna technology complements new generation fully digital payloads where the operator can thus change the orbit position, frequencies and the power of their spacecraft.

- Airbus Defence and Space in Spain is the prime contractor for this advanced instrument developed over four years. Airbus led an industrial group that included a group of 12 European companies, eight of them Spanish, to build this advanced system.

- Innovative design and manufacture of active antennas is one of the Airbus strengths in Spain. ELSA+ builds on previous developments such as: the DRA/ELSA for Hispasat 36W1, IRMA (In-orbit Reconfigurable Multibeam Antenna) on board SpainSat for secure military communications, as well as the Gaia active antenna that transmits large amounts of data as the spacecraft maps a billion stars. These systems are all operating successfully in orbit.

- “With ELSA+ we are entering a whole new game in satellite telecommunications, this is just a starting point and a reference for future missions,” said Fernando Varela, Head of Airbus Space Systems in Spain, “we are constantly evolving this technology, and Airbus is already developing the future generation antennas for the SpainSat-NG program.”

- This new development for the Eutelsat Quantum satellite positions Airbus in Spain as the leader in Europe for active antennas. The project has been possible thanks to the support of CDTI (Spanish Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial) and the European Space Agency. Quantum is being built under an ARTES Partnership Project between manufacturers Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, operator Eutelsat and ESA. ESA’s Partnership Projects aim to achieve economic impacts and competitive leaps forward federating industry around large-scale programs.

- Eutelsat Quantum satellite is a revolutionary step forward for commercial satellites, offering very high customization and flexibility. It will supply services with unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in coverage, frequency and power, allowing complete mission rehaul, including orbital position.

- The mass of the satellite at launch is 3.5 tons and its design lifetime is 15 years. The Eutelsat Quantum satellite is due to be launched 2nd half of 2020.

• 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. 6)

- 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. 7)

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Figure 6: 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.

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Figure 7: 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. 8) 9)

- 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".

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Figure 8: 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 9: 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)

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Figure 10: 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. 10) — 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. 6).

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
/four-things-you-should-know-about-eutelsat-quantum-69078

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://news.eutelsat.com/pressreleases
/universal-eutelsat-quantum-satellite-to-revolutionise-telecoms-markets-1190652

3) ”Quantum completes radio-frequency tests,” ESA Applications, 27 July 2020, URL: https://www.esa.int/Applications
/Telecommunications_Integrated_Applications/Quantum_completes_radio-frequency_tests

4) ”Quantum satellite completes vibration tests,” ESA / Applications / Telecommunications & Integrated Applications, 2 March 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/Applications
/Telecommunications_Integrated_Applications/Quantum_satellite_completes_vibration_tests

5) ”Airbus presents ground-breaking technology for Eutelsat Quantum,” Airbus Press Release, 21 November 2019, URL: https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en
/2019/11/airbus-presents-groundbreaking-technology-for-eutelsat-quantum.html

6) 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-c-band-alliance-divided-on-treasury-contribution/

7) ”Reprogrammable satellite takes shape,” ESA, 15 May 2019, URL: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities
/Telecommunications_Integrated_Applications/Reprogrammable_satellite_takes_shape

8) ”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-

9) ”World-First chameleon satellite leaving native British shores,” ESA, 9 January 2019, URL: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Telecommunications_Integrated_Applications
/World-first_chameleon_satellite_leaving_native_British_shores

10) ”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-multiple-launch-service-agreement-with-arianespace/



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 (herb.kramer@gmx.net).

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