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Media captionYohann Leroy: “Quantum writes a brand new chapter within the satellite tv for pc telecoms trade”

UK engineers have accomplished the construct of the novel Quantum satellite tv for pc.

The telecommunications platform would be the first totally software-defined spacecraft.

Historically, giant satellites are configured on the bottom for particular duties that can’t be modified after launch, even when market calls for evolve.

Quantum’s protection, bandwidth, energy and frequency can all be altered in orbit.

The large Paris-based telecoms operator Eutelsat has procured the three.5-tonne spacecraft in a R&D partnership with the European House Company (Esa), with producer Airbus appearing because the prime contractor.

Yohann Leroy, the Deputy CEO and CTO at Eutelsat, stated he believed Quantum to be a game-changer for his trade.

“It is going to deliver unprecedented flexibility to our clients, permitting for in-orbit payload re-configuration and taking customisation to a brand new degree, whereas additionally opening the way in which to a paradigm shift within the manufacture of telecommunications satellites,” he advised reporters.

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EUTELSAT

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A telecoms satellite tv for pc will launch preconfigured to service an outlined market

Airbus used its Portsmouth facility to develop the adaptable telecoms payload, and its subsidiary Surrey Satellite tv for pc Know-how Ltd in Guildford to make the spacecraft bus, or chassis.

The 2 halves will now be built-in on the Airbus check facility in Toulouse earlier than being shipped to French Guiana and a trip to orbit on an Ariane 5 rocket on the finish of the 12 months.

SSTL held a particular occasion on Wednesday to mark the handover of its aspect of the venture. Quantum has been a step-change for an organization that’s maybe greatest identified for making small low-Earth-orbiting imaging satellites and Galileo sat-nav payloads.

“That is the primary satellite tv for pc we’ll be sending into geostationary orbit (36,000km above the Earth),” stated SSTL Managing Director, Sarah Parker. “It is a fully completely different requirement and dimension. It is in all probability about 10 instances the scale of the common satellite tv for pc we construct right here.”

Why is that this vital?

Quantum is important as a result of it heralds a brand new period in multi-mission satellites.

The telecoms spacecraft that sit 36,000km above the equator are used to bounce TV, telephone calls, broadband and different information providers across the planet.

At the moment, these satellites are set as much as ship very particular merchandise to outlined markets.

This may imply, for instance, transmitting solely on sure radio frequencies with formed antennas to carve out the mandatory floor “footprint”. However telecoms markets do not stand nonetheless, and having the ability to completely reconfigure an in-orbit platform would allow an operator to adapt to any shifts within the enterprise panorama – with out the necessity to construct and launch one other bespoke platform.

The operator would merely reprogram the present satellite tv for pc. These antennas may electronically “change their form”.

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KATHRYN GRAHAM/SSTL

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Quantum is far greater than the usual spacecraft constructed by SSTL

David Phillips, Airbus’s Head of UK Programmes, stated the European and UK house companies had been fairly prescient in pushing for the Quantum growth.

“The elements and applied sciences that allow software-defined satellites will grow to be an increasing number of the way forward for our trade,” he commented.

Why is that this vital to the UK?

British trade has tried to place itself because the go-to provider of telecommunications satellites.

UK know-how has made a major contribution to one thing like 1 / 4 of all of the world’s massive platforms on this sector.

Eutelsat, one of many “Huge Three” international satcom operators, counts 23 of its 38 at present operational spacecraft as having British enter.

Six of their subsequent seven satellites will proceed this pattern. And to ensure UK trade stays aggressive, the house authorities has pushed appreciable funding by means of the R&D programmes of Esa’s telecommunications directorate.

Quantum has emerged from a venture initiated in 2014 and initially codenamed “AnySAT”.

The UK put up €72m (£65m) of funding, with different Esa member states contributing €8m. This dominance assured the key a part of the event work would come to the UK.

The marketplace for massive telecoms satellites is presently going by means of a lull, however merchandise like Quantum will place Britain to do effectively when orders decide up once more, believes Catherine Mealing-Jones, the Director of Progress on the UK House Company.

“Having belongings in house which are versatile and might meet altering wants is totally important, and that has underpinned the UK House Company’s funding technique in telecoms over the previous few years,” she stated.

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and comply with me on Twitter: @BBCAmos