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'Chameleon-like' satellite will offer maximum telecoms flexibility

12 July 2015

Next stage in telecom satellites emerges as ESA, Eutelsat and Airbus Defence & Space partnership, Quantum, begins designing the most flexible payload ever.

Artist's impression of a Quantum satellite (courtesy of Airbus Defence & Space

The Quantum programme is a departure from the traditional, custom, one-off approach to building satellites by offering a new and generic payload design. For the first time, it will enable users to request the performance and flexibility they need in terms of coverage, bandwidth, power and frequency.

The satellites developed under the Quantum umbrella will be cheaper and quicker to build compared to current methods by using generic subsystems and equipment, enabling larger-scale production and more efficient control of stock.

Quantum will also be able to completely transform in orbit. Once in space, the chameleon-like satellite can adapt to new commands in coverage, frequency band, power use and even change its orbital position. This will make it the first generation of universal satellites able to serve any region of the world and adjust to new business without the user needing to buy and launch an entirely new satellite. 

This ability to mirror or complement another satellite anywhere in geostationary orbit is expected to transform fleet management and result in a significantly more efficient use of resources.

The first Quantum satellite will be delivered in 2018 and operated by Eutelsat to serve government, mobility and data markets. Airbus DS will be the prime contractor, using a new platform from UK based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited. Both developments are supported by the UK Space Agency.

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