The European Space Agency (ESA) launched the world's first sophisticated and fully reprogrammable satellite onboard an Arian 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This paves the way for more flexible communications necessary for the modern era.
Unlike other conventional satellite models which cannot be repurposed once in orbit, the Eutelsat Quantum allows users to tailor communications to their needs in near real-time. The satellite can be reprogrammed while orbiting in a fixed position of 35,000 kilometers above the Earth, depending on the changing demands for data transmission and secure communications during its 15-year lifetime of covering a large geographical area from West Africa to Asia.
Commenting on the successful launch, Pascal Homsy, Eutelsat’s chief technical officer said, “The collaboration between Eutelsat, ESA, the UK Space Agency and Airbus Defence and Space on this ambitious satellite program has resulted in a world-first. Eutelsat Quantum will supply services with unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in coverage, frequency and power, allowing complete mission rehaul, at any orbital position. It is a testimony to the innovative spirit and expertise of the European Space industry.”
The 3.5-tonne Quantum model has eight communications beams. Each can be modified to change its area of coverage and adjust the power of the telecommunications signal it emits, whenever needed. Moreover, any rogue emissions can be satellite-detected, enabling dynamic response to accidental interference or intentional jamming.
Using a software, these changes can be made "in a matter of minutes", according to Eutelsat. Hence, this satellite can be used to provide mobile coverage not only for moving objects such as aircraft or oceangoing vessels but also during natural disasters or for unexpected occurrences.