Eutelsat Quantum, the world’s first commercial fully re-programmable satellite launched on an Ariane-5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on Friday.
Developed under the European Space Agency (ESA) partnership project with satellite operator Eutelsat and prime manufacturer Airbus, Eutelsat Quantum is the first commercial fully flexible software-defined satellite in the world.
The ESA posted from its official handle a photo of the Eutelsat Quantum satellite lifting off.
The satellite was placed in orbit some 36 minutes after the launch.
The space agency said in an official release: “Because it can be reprogrammed in orbit, it can respond to changing demands for data transmission and secure communications during its 15-year lifetime. Its beams can be redirected to move in almost real-time to provide information to passengers onboard moving ships or planes.”
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Telecommunications satellites are the giants of the sky. These multi-tonne beasts sit high above the equator, bouncing TV, phone calls, broadband and other data services around the planet.
But unlike conventional models that are designed and “hard-wired” on Earth and cannot be repurposed once in orbit, the Eutelsat Quantum allows users to tailor the communications to their needs — almost in real-time as it can be reprogrammed while orbiting in a fixed position 35,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) above the Earth
The 3.5-tonne Quantum model has eight communications beams, each of which can be modified to change the power of the telecommunications signal it emits and its area of coverage. This means the beams can be easily adjusted to give more information as per demand.
Using software made available to the customer, these changes can be made “in a matter of minutes”, according to Eutelsat. This means the satellite can be used to provide mobile coverage for moving objects such as aircraft or oceangoing vessels or to provide coverage after a natural disaster.
And at a time of growing concern over digital security — as well as the possible weaponising of space — what makes Quantum one of its kind, is that it is able to pinpoint the origin of signals emitted with or without malicious intent and take action to remedy the interference.
The Quantum will cover a large geographical area from West Africa to Asia for a period of 15 years.