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Reprogrammable satellite deployed in space

A sophisticated telecommunications satellite that can be completely repurposed while in space has launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

Squabbling galactic siblings
ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton; CC BY 4.0
Squabbling galactic siblings ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton; CC BY 4.0

Developed under an ESA Partnership Project with satellite operator Eutelsat and prime manufacturer Airbus, Eutelsat Quantum is the first commercial fully flexible software-defined satellite in the world.

The satellite – which will be used for data transmission and secure communications – was launched on board an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

It has since reached geostationary orbit some 36 000 km above Earth, where it has deployed its solar array and is communicating well with its operator on Earth.

Because the satellite can be reprogrammed in orbit, it can respond to changing demands during its lifetime.

Its beams can be redirected to move in almost real time to provide information to passengers on board moving ships or planes. The beams also can be easily adjusted to deliver more data when demand surges.

The satellite can detect and characterise any rogue emissions, enabling it to respond dynamically to accidental interference or intentional jamming.

The satellite will remain in geostationary orbit for its 15-year lifespan, after which it will be safely placed in a graveyard orbit away from Earth to avoid becoming a risk to other satellites.

Quantum is a UK flagship project with most of the satellite developed and manufactured by British industry. Airbus is the prime contractor and was responsible for building the satellite’s innovative payload, while Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd manufactured the new platform.

ESA Partnership Projects develop sustainable end-to-end systems, right up to in-orbit validation.

Elodie Viau, ESA’s Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, said: “I am proud to witness the successful launch of Eutelsat Quantum, which is the result of an ESA Partnership Project. ESA fosters innovation in the space industry in the UK and across Europe, enabling it to succeed in the highly competitive global telecommunications markets. Investing in space creates jobs and prosperity on Earth.”

Further information

Eutelsat Quantum background page:

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The ESA team working on Eutelsat Quantum:

Reprogrammable satellite fuelled prior to launch:
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Eutelsat Quantum: Europe’s reprogrammable satellite:

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About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania are Associate Members.

ESA has established formal cooperation with five Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

Learn more about ESA at

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