The Airbus logo photographed in front of the Blagnac site, March 7, 2018 / AFP / Archives
Airbus has won a major contract from Eutelsat for the supply of two large broadcast satellites for the satellite carrier's HotBird fleet, the two groups announced on Monday.
This program representing several hundred million euros is good news for the European group, in a market that remains depressed.
These two new satellites, which will cover the Europe and Middle East zone, will replace the three current satellites of lesser capacity that Eutelsat operates on its position at 13 ° East. Their launch is scheduled for 2021.
The HotBird constellation broadcasts 1,000 television channels to more than 135 million homes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
This announcement gives a boost to a depressed commercial satellite market for two years, with a sharp decline in orders. "This is very good news," said Nicolas Chamussy, the director general of space systems at Airbus, in an interview with AFP.
The satellite market remains "quite depressed" this year, he said, pointing out that "there have been so far five telecom satellites" in 2018 (except this contract, ed), against 8 to 12 the previous years.
It also confirms the leading position of the European manufacturer in the segment of electric propulsion satellites, which allows to carry a larger payload for the same mass instead of fuel in traditional satellites.
These two satellites are the 9th and 10th electric propulsion developed by Airbus, which makes the European group "by far the world's first", according to Nicolas Chamussy. These two satellites will have a capacity of 22 kilowatts, for a mass of 4.5 tons thanks to electric propulsion.
They will be based on Airbus' Eurostar Neo platform, which combines increased payload capacity with more efficient power and heat control systems.
Rodolphe Belmer, then CEO of the Canal Group, during a speech in Paris, 20 September 2012 / AFP / Archives
"It is rare to have such an important order especially now that space markets are in contraction," said Rodolphe Belmer, the CEO of Eutelsat at AFP. "These are extremely powerful electric satellites, which allow to have a signal of better quality," he said stating that they will be manufactured partly in France and partly in the United Kingdom.
The development of the Eurostar Neo platform has been supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and European space agencies under the ARTES-14 program led by ESA and the National Center for Space Studies (CNES), and widely supported by the UK Space Agency (UKSA).)