Telecom Satellites: the nice Eutelsat order that finally takes off Airbus in 2018

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Airbus Space Systems can breathe. In a very small satellite market, the European manufacturer made a huge commercial coup by being selected by Eutelsat, one of the world's leading operators, to supply two new generation Hotbird telecom satellites (13F and 13G) that will serve Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. This order estimated at 500 million euros is not really a surprise: Eutelsat is a long-time partner of Airbus, which has already built 23 satellites.

"Eutelsat's continued trust in our products makes us today the launch customer of Eurostar Neo, which will be our new flagship telecommunications satellite, explained the CEO of Airbus Space Systems Nicolas Chamussy. Eutelsat has been our main partner for most of our premieres, including Eurostar E2000 + and Eurostar E3000, but also with all-electric propulsion. "

These satellites will replace three others currently in service and will enhance the capacity of Eutelsat's flagship broadcast orbital position at 13 ° East. Either European coverage with a high power beam. With a planned launch in 2021, they will be the ninth and tenth all-electric high-powered Eurostar satellites manufactured by Airbus. Their entry into service is scheduled for 2022.

A new Airbus victory against Thales

The satellite market remains "pretty depressed" this year, said Nicolas Chamussy, stressing that "there have been so far five telecom satellites " in 2018 outside this contract (compared to eight last year on the open market). "It is rare to have such an important order especially now that space markets are in contraction"said Rodolphe Belmer. This order also confirms the leading position of the European manufacturer in the segment of electrically propelled satellites, which allows to carry a larger payload for the same mass instead of fuel in traditional satellites.

A market where Thales still struggled to penetrate in a sustainable way despite its success last April for the manufacture of the satellite Konnect VHTS (Very High Throughput Satellite) on behalf of Eutelsat. In addition, the Amos 8 satellite for the Israeli Spacecom was eventually awarded to the industrialist IAI, Angosat 2 to Russian RKK Energia, BSat 4b to American Loral (Maxar) and finally Galaxy 30 to Orbital ATK ( Northrop Grumman).

This acquisition is fully covered by the existing investment envelope ofEutelsat, assured the satellite operator. The Hotbird constellation is one of the largest broadcast systems in Europe. It broadcasts 1,000 television channels to more than 135 million homes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. According to Eutelsat, the Airbus satellites will offer advanced features in the protection and resilience of the upstream signal, as well as exceptional redundancy in orbit.

New Airbus platform

Both satellites will use their numerous electric thrusters for faster stationary and orbital maneuvers. They will each have an electric power of 22 kW, for a launch mass of only 4.5 tons, thanks to the all-electric version EOR (Electric Orbit) Raising) of the Eurostar platform Neo. The two new satellites will be manufactured from the Eurostar platform Neo in "our digital factory 4.0", said Nicolas Chamussy. They will be built Stevenage and Portsmouth in the United Kingdom and Toulouse. This "new way of producing guarantees end-to-end digital continuity, from design to the latest tests in orbit"he assured.

The development of the Eurostar platform Neo Airbus was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and European space agencies under the ARTES-14 program led by ESA and CNES, and largely supported by the UK Space Agency (UKSA).