Space telecommunications is an industry in transformation. Where telecommunications satellites have traditionally carried radiofrequency transponders, today they are operating a shift towards digital signal processing.
In response to this evolution, Thales Alenia Space is developing a new line of geostationary telecommunications satellites called Space Inspire (INstant SPace In-orbit REconfiguration). Capable of adjusting their coverage and frequencies to meet market demand, these satellites guarantee operators a better return on investment. Standardization also significantly reduces recurring costs and lead times.
The new line of satellites is also being driven by strong innovation in systems and technologies in France, for which CNES has crafted an ambitious R&D plan to sustain the national industrial base. The agency has supported this initiative from the early phases of conceptual design and has worked alongside industry during the now completed preliminary definition phase. The stakes of this satellite product line for French industry drove the government’s decision on 7 April this year to establish a programme dedicated to Space Inspire under its PIA future investment plan. Execution of this programme has been entrusted to CNES, which after an initial study begun in April awarded the contract to develop the line of satellites on 17 November. The contracts awarded by CNES for the system and equipment will be complemented by activities under the European Space Agency’s ARTES programme, to develop certain components and building blocks outside France.
“Space Inspire is leveraging French advanced technologies and expertise, both for the payload and spacecraft bus. It will afford total in-orbit flexibility and capacity at an attractive price. CNES has been closely involved in developing this new generation of satellites from the preliminary definition phase, is implementing the PIA investment plan and recently awarded the phase C/D satellite contract. Certain basic technology building blocks developed outside France are being funded through ESA’s ARTES programme,” said Caroline Laurent, CNES Director of Orbital Systems.