Jun 16, 2015

PeruSat-1 Heralds New Era In Earth Observation

The launch next year of PeruSat-1 – Peru’s first Earth-observation satellite – is the first of a proposed family of spacecraft built on Airbus’s AstroBus-S platform. But this new vehicle is hardly an untested proposition. The spacecraft builds on previous designs to provide a key sector of the space market with a versatile baseline configuration that can, according to Airbus Defense and Space, reduce development timescale and cost.

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“This ultimate evolution reuses flight-proven elements, in particular the avionics designed for Spot 6/7,” says CEO Eric Béranger. “Those were launched respectively in 2012 and 2013, and are qualified for a 10-year life. [The platform] allows significantly shorter integration time and cost reduction associated with unrivaled performance for very high-resolution Earth-observation missions.”

The growth in the Earth-observation market reflects an increasing requirement worldwide for the kind of data these spacecraft can supply, the advancing capability of payload systems, and greater interest from nations such as Peru in owning a sovereign capability.

“The growing demand for commercial space imagery is of course a good indicator,” Béranger says. “Today, Airbus D&S is able to provide very high-performance satellite systems, with a mass and compactness never seen before. PeruSat-1 provides an optical payload capable of submeter resolution within a total spacecraft weight of about 400 kg.”

The question of sovereignty is not just about ownership of the data, Béranger says. It’s also about building an indigenous space industrial base.

“Of course, the nations want their own satellite systems,” he says, “but also a way to develop a sovereign space industry and competencies through technology transfers. In the case of PeruSat-1, this includes a significant knowledge and know-how transfer, but it also includes a satellite simulator and specific application fields based on space optical imagery.”

The market is still growing despite competition pitched at that most persuasive of price points: Free. The European Union’s Copernicus program – to which Airbus D&S is delivering eight satellites and four instruments – supplies some data from the burgeoning constellation to end users without charge.

“Obviously, with the increase of free imagery, the low-resolution commercial market – which was the heart of the market 10 years ago – will progressively disappear,” Béranger says. “The demand will focus on submetric images.”

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