ESA Telecom Partnership Projects shining across the stars

In a strong year for Partnership Projects, ESA and its partners worked on a number of collaborations that led to world-beating results, launches and innovations.


In September the Eutelsat Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) launch took place. It was the eighth Thales Alenia Space Spacebus Neo satellite to benefit from ESA’s Neosat programme.

Setting off from the European spaceport in French Guiana, the launch will help to improve broadband and in-flight connectivity in Europe. It is also the largest-ever communication satellite built in Europe, standing at over 8.9 metres tall.

The satellite contained a number of innovative features developed under an ESA partnership project with Thales Alenia Space including new antenna deployment and pointing mechanisms used within the antenna tracking system.

Another major success for our Partnership Projects is the launch of the first Eurostar Neo Satellite, Eutelsat Hotbird 13F, in October. This is the first satellite to be built under the Airbus Defence and Space EurostarNeo programme. Eurostar Neo, similar to Spacebus Neo, is a part of the ESA Partnership Project Neosat.  In addition, the twin brother of Eutelsat HotBird 13F, named HotBird 13G, will be launched in November. 

Neosat is the next generation platform initiative which has led to two successful Partnership Projects managed by ESA in cooperation with the French Space Agency, CNES. NEOSAT is part of ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) and is supported by 17 ESA Member States. It continues the pioneering work of the agency in collaborating with European partners to build greatness, resilience, and forward-thinking vision.

Fast track to success 

ESA Partnership Projects delivers fast track projects. We aim to reduce the time between project approval by our member states and the delivery in-orbit. Triton-X is the perfect example of that. Triton-X is a project between LuxSpace and ESA to develop and qualify a new multi-purpose LEO satellite platform with a first demo mission taking place in 2023.

Triton-X will provide low-cost and fast-track access to space for both commercial and institutional low earth orbit applications. While led by LuxSpace, six ESA members states have subscribed to Triton-X with six industrial partners and ten suppliers. 

Another example is the Pioneer Programme where ESA Partnership Projects were able to reach 8 months between contract and launch. With the Pioneer Programme ESA aims to reduce the barriers to entry facilitating the development of disruptive ideas that could transform the industry as a whole. Six companies are currently signed up to Pioneer to develop their infrastructure for in-orbit demonstrations. 18 nanosatellites have already been launched thanks to the Pioneer programme with 11 more under development.

Continuing to Innovate

Continuing the forward path of innovation, the HummingSat Geo product line development, under ARTES, with the Swiss company, SWISSto12, was initiated in 4 months from ESA Member States decision to sign contracts at the ESA Council. It is part of ESA’s efforts to help support “NewSpace” companies in Europe.

A major satellite operator recently placed an order for the first HummingSat satellite. Each HummingSat satellite is designed to launch as a rideshare mission on a rocket carrying one or more large spacecraft to geostationary transfer orbit.

There was also pioneering work in the security in space sector. A consortium of 20 companies led by SES signed a contract in September with ESA for the Eagle-1 innovative European Quantum Key Distribution mission, supported in particular by DLR, LSA and the European Commission.

The Eagle-1 satellite will demonstrate secure communications for Europe using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). A QKD system is set to build a world-leading method of providing security, enabling Europe to lead the world in setting new standards for communications security. In parallel ARTES Partnership Projects is also supporting the development of a similar QKD service with UK-based ARQIT.

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