Posted inNews

Eutelsat orders GEO broadband satellite with LEO in mind

A fifth and final servicing mission to NASA's venerable Hubble Space Telescope will place new financial burdens on an agency that already has had to scale back its science and aeronautics programs. It also will entail risks, both to the astronauts who will do the repair work and perhaps to the schedule for fielding a replacement for the space shuttle, which is slated to be mothballed in 2010.

TAMPA, Fla. — Eutelsat said Dec. 1 it has ordered a geostationary broadband satellite to support multi-orbit services in the Americas from 2026.

Thales Alenia Space is designing the Flexsat (flexible satellite) to accommodate the low Earth orbit network that the French operator stands to gain by merging with OneWeb, the U.K.-based constellation operator.

“This new satellite will further underpin Eutelsat’s growth strategy aimed at addressing the booming Connectivity segment and it is also able to support joint GEO-LEO services,” Eutelsat CEO Eva Berneke said in a statement.

In their joint news release, Eutelsat and Thales said Flexsat will “accommodate joint GEO-LEO services, specifically in zones where demand is highly concentrated.”

Thales referred questions about how the satellite would help integrate GEO and LEO networks to Eutelsat. 

“We see particular emphasis on [combining GEO and LEO services] by customers in the Americas and want to have a satellite that, thanks to its flexibility, will be the perfect and modular complement to the connectivity layer provided from LEO,” Eutelsat corporate communications officer Daphne Joseph-Gabriel said via email.

“Of course, it does not mean that a spacecraft positioned in GEO could provide “LEO-like” services.”

Flexsat will be based on Thales’ Space Inspire software-enabled platform, which enables the satellite to be reconfigured once in orbit in response to changing mission needs.

While outlining the benefits of multi-orbit architecture, Eutelsat has previously said its GEO satellites could provide more capacity to congested areas than OneWeb’s LEO network. In contrast, OneWeb satellites offer reduced latency and pole-to-pole coverage.

Eutelsat said Flexsat would be capable of providing more than 100 gigabits per second of incremental capacity over the Americas, targeting enterprise, government, aviation, and maritime customers.

It is the fifth GEO satellite that Thales has sold this year based on its software-defined Space Inspire product line, following two orders from Intelsat and one each from SES and Arabsat.

In September, Thales said it had sold a more classic GEO satellite to South Korea’s KT Sat without a software-defined payload, which can provide better economics for operators with stable demand forecasts that are also looking to deploy their spacecraft faster.[spacenews-ad]

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously,...