WASHINGTON — Intelsat has agreed to market half the capacity on an upcoming Eutelsat satellite designed mainly for government customers, Eutelsat announced July 30. 

The operators said they agreed to use an orbital slot they co-own at 48 degrees east, a location in geosynchronous orbit with coverage over the Middle East and Northern Africa. 

Eutelsat Quantum is a “flexible” satellite that differs from earlier communications satellites by using highly customizable beams that can be reprogrammed to change their shape, size, and power. Airbus Defence and Space is building the satellite, which is scheduled to launch late this year on a European Ariane 5 rocket. 

Intelsat General, the government sales arm of Intelsat, will market capacity on Eutelsat Quantum to the U.S. military with security upgrades such as “protected payload management,” Eutelsat said. 

“This type of industry collaboration is truly a ‘win-win’ for everyone, and we look forward to a productive, long-term partnership with Eutelsat at 48°East,” Intelsat General regional vice president Rick Henry said in a news release. 

Paris-based Eutelsat’s Americas subsidiary will also distribute capacity on the Eutelsat Quantum, “creating conditions for the fastest possible ramp-up of the satellite,” Eutelsat said. 

Eutelsat spokesperson Joanna Darlington said Eutelsat and Intelsat will each market half the capacity on the satellite. 

Eutelsat Quantum is the frontrunner of reprogrammable satellites, though manufacturing delays have shortened its lead. The satellite was once expected to launch in 2018. Eutelsat competitors SES and ViaSat have reconfigurable satellites of their own scheduled to launch in 2021, followed by Inmarsat in 2023. 

Eutelsat ordered Eutelsat Quantum in 2015 as part of a public-private partnership partly funded through the European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program. Airbus built the satellite in the U.K. on a platform from its subsidiary Surrey Satellite Technology Limited. 

The satellite features a Ku-band electronically steerable multi-beam antenna Airbus built in Spain with support from the Spanish government’s Center for Industrial Technological Development. It is designed to generate eight Ku-band beams, and can null jamming signals by geolocating their source of origin. The antenna is an evolution of technologies used on Hispasat’s 36-W1 satellite, the Spanish military’s SpainSat satellite and the European Space Agency’s Gaia star-mapping telescope. 

ESA said July 27 that Eutelsat Quantum completed radio frequency testing in Toulouse, France, during which its reconfigurable payload was activated to ensure proper function. The payload won’t be turned on again until after Eutelsat Quantum is in orbit, ESA said. 

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...