Jun 23, 2014

Airbus Defence and Space—SPOT 7 Coming To Fruition + Ka-Band Linkage For French Forces (Launch Preparations + MILSATCOM)

Estimated Article Reading Time: 4 min.

[SatNews] Airbus Defence and Space is making final preparations for the launch of SPOT 7, its new high-resolution Earth observation satellite.

In the next few days, the satellite will be integrated on the PSLV launcher that will place it in orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. SPOT 7 has a service life of 10 years.

“It took just three and a half years to design and manufacture the SPOT 6 and 7 satellite system, a record time. This has made the SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 program a global benchmark, through the use of our technological expertise to enhance quality, speed of delivery and reduce the level of risk involved in the projects,” said Head of Space Systems François Auque.

Compared with previous SPOT missions, the performance of the ground segment and the satellites themselves has been significantly improved, particularly with regard to responsiveness—from satellite programming through to the delivery of data to users—and acquisition capacity.

SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 are agile satellites that can quickly be pointed anywhere within an area of 1,500 km of their position, while also enabling daily revisits to any point on the globe, providing a total coverage of six million square kilometers every day. SPOT 7 will deliver imaging products with a resolution of up to 1.5 metres, thereby improving the service provided by the SPOT 5 satellite, which has been in operation since 2002. It will join its twin, SPOT 6, which was launched at the end of 2012, to complete Airbus Defence and Space’s globally unique constellation, which combines these two high-resolution satellites and the two very-high-resolution satellites Pleiades 1A and Pleiades 1B in the same orbit.

This constellation will offer the company’s customers the chance to access wholly new applications with unequaled lead times. As a result, every point of the globe will be visible every day both in high resolution and very high resolution. While the SPOT satellites will provide images over large areas, the Pleiades satellites will be able to deliver products that “zoom in” on these same areas, i.e. with a more restricted field of view but in far greater detail (50 cm).

SPOT 7 is equipped with a Flash-type memory, as is SPOT 6, which was a world first for a commercial satellite at the time. By comparison to the previous generation, this offers 60-percent better performance and is also 2.5 times lighter, 5 times smaller and consumes 3.5 times less power. Widely used in mass-market electronics, this technology has now proven that it meets the very strict quality standards required for space missions and works in orbit.

Based on the Astrobus platform designed by Airbus Defence and Space, SPOT 7 offers unparalleled performance compared with the previous generation and is also four times lighter (weighing 720 kg to SPOT 5’s three tonnes). The Astrobus platform combines speed of construction and unrivaled value for money and is being used for a variety of missions that include imaging (Pleiades, SPOT 6/7, Ingenio etc), environmental monitoring and meteorology (Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-5P). On the cutting edge of global technology, the system also benefits from the unique expertise developed by Airbus Defence and Space in the field of silicon carbide (SiC) space structures and instruments. Together with its partner Boostec, the company has created, through a number of achievements in space (Herschel, Gaia, etc.), a successful economic sector, with the SiC produced in the Midi-Pyrénées region being exported around the world.

Additionally, Airbus Defence and Space has marked an important step towards providing the French Armed Forces with an ultra-high-speed, all-IP satellite communications network in the Ka-band—on 17 June, the company successfully established the first end-to-end link between the Comcept system’s ground segments and the recently launched Athena-Fidus satellite.

The French defence procurement agency DGA in late 2012 commissioned Airbus Defence and Space and Actia Sodielec to develop Comcept, one of the first digital, military, ultra-high-speed satellite communication networks worldwide. Comcept is the ground segment of Athena-Fidus, the Franco-Italian satellite that was launched on February 6, 2014. Comcept will give the French Armed Forces access to a network of fixed and deployable stations, allowing them to exchange data, videos and telephone communications using latest generation all-IP technology in Ka band.

The Comcept system, which is scheduled to go into operation by the end of 2014, will allow French forces to join a select group of armed forces with military Ka-band networks—today, those from the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Comcept, under a contract set to run for 17 years, will also be compatible with future commercial satellites operating in Ka-band so as to supplement Athena-Fidus’s capabilities.

“Airbus Defence and Space is providing the French Ministry of Defence with a solution fitted to its requirement, namely to complement the Syracuse satellite system with high speed data transmission capabilities, by combining developments in the commercial sector with specific functions required for military communication,” said Eric SouleÌ€res, Head of Operations and Engineering within Communications, Intelligence & Security at Airbus Defence and Space.

The first two of 20 main high-data-rate (HDR) ground stations will be delivered in the coming weeks. These HDR stations are installed in a transportable shelter and provide a speed of approximately 10 Mbit/s. There are plans to expand Comcept’s capabilities with fixed and deployable ground stations of varying sizes that could be deployed both in France and in theaters of operation. These could be used to equip land vehicles, ships, airplanes and unmanned aerial systems with mobile stations.

As the prime contractor for Comcept, Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for engineering and system testing. Its partner Actia Sodielec, a supplier to the French Ministry of Defence specializing in satellite communications, is in charge of the engineering, integration and operational maintenance of the ground stations.

The Airbus Defence and Space infosite is located at http://airbusdefenceandspace.com/