20 February 2014 – Airbus Defence and Space, number two worldwide in space technologies, has been awarded the phase B contract for initial design work on the European Space Agency (ESA) next-generation satellite platforms. The contract, in conjunction with Thales Alenia Space (TAS), is worth €18.2m.
The new platform of Airbus Defence and Space will be designed for telecommunications satellites of between three and six tonnes. Lighter and smaller than the current platforms, it will feature an all-electric version and, in response to customer requirements, will also be available with a chemical propulsion system.
This next generation Airbus Defence and Space platform is expected to enter into service in 2019 as the subsequent Phase-C/D will start in 2015 for the development and manufacture of the first two prototype flight platforms.
“Our aim is to provide telecommunications satellites that deliver even more in the way of performance and are 30% more competitive,” explained François Auque, Head of Space Systems. “The increased competitiveness of our next generation satellite, which will be designed predominantly at our design offices in Toulouse and Stevenage, will be made possible thanks to substantial technical innovation as well as innovative industrial organisation.”
The development of Neosat comes after the ESA Ministerial Council meeting approved the Neosat programme as part of the ARTES 14 programme for next-generation telecom satellite platforms. ESA member states have since approved a budget of 260 million euros for the European programme, which is now receiving significant backing from the French and British space agencies. The programme began in 2011, with the French government providing support through the Future Investment Plan (PIA).
The contract comes 10 years after the launch of the first Eurostar E3000; since then, 31 satellites have been launched, all of them achieving 100% operational service in orbit.