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EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite with 3D printed parts successfully launched

New technology positions Airbus in Spain as one of the leaders in Europe for active antennas

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The Airbus-built EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite was shipped from the Airbus Defence and Space facilities in Toulouse to Kourou, French Guiana, and successfully launched on July 30th.

The 3.5 tonnes (at launch) satellite, which is designed for a 15 years lifetime, features titanium 64 solar panel supports, developed and fabricated by CATEC (Fundación Andaluza para el Desarrollo Aeroespacial (FADA-CATEC)) using additive manufacturing technology. The 6 parts were actually delivered in 2016 and were at the time one of the very first safety class 1.1 fully qualified for space.

EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite with 3D printed parts shipped to launch site The EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite is a revolutionary step forward for commercial satellites, offering very high customization and flexibility. It will supply services with unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in coverage, frequency and power, allowing complete mission rehaul, at any orbital position.

Using a software-based design, EUTELSAT QUANTUM will be the first universal satellite to repeatedly adjust to business requirements. It will be located at 48° East, and will offer extensive coverage of the MENA Region (Middle East & North Africa) and beyond allowing it to cover any area requested by the customer anytime during its life in orbit.

François Gaullier, Head of Telecom Systems at Airbus, said: “The technology we have developed and built for EUTELSAT QUANTUM is truly game-changing – paving the way to fully reconfigurable geo telecommunications satellites. Our experience in pioneering this revolutionary technology demonstrates the value of partnerships – bringing together the best from Eutelsat, ESA and Airbus to achieve a new standard in flexible connectivity.”

EUTELSAT QUANTUM has been developed under an ESA Partnership Project with Airbus and Eutelsat. Two features of this partnership, which brings the industry together around large-scale programs to achieve leaps forward in the state-of-the-art, were the development of the unique payload designed and built by Airbus in the UK under the ESA program of Advanced Research in TElecommunications Systems (ARTES) and supported by the UK Space Agency, and the very innovative, multibeam active antenna payload ELSA+ (ELectronically Steerable Antenna+) developed by Airbus in Spain. This positions Airbus in Spain as one of the leaders in Europe for active antennas and contributes to the next generation of antennas for future programs.

This groundbreaking payload is embarked on the new geo satellite platform from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (UK). The satellite will provide communications on the move with dynamic beam shaping and vessel-tracking capabilities, optimized for power and throughput as required by maritime, aeronautical and land-based transportation. It will also enable the bespoke design of wide-area data networks and dynamic traffic shaping, responding to demand where and when needed. In addition, it will provide Government users with a rapid response for public protection and disaster recovery as well as secure control using the latest encryption technology.

The Center for Advanced Aerospace Technologies, CATEC, was particularly involved with this launch since its facilities additively manufactured some of the pieces that reached space. Specifically, the supports of the titanium solar panels were developed and delivered by CATEC in 2016, at that time one of the first examples manufactured by critical technology from a structural and functional point of view, fully qualified for space. This development process required extensive knowledge of technology and maturity, where all associated processes had to be qualified, from the storage and monitoring of the raw material, the application of post-processes such as heat treatments, improvement of the surface finish, machining of the interfaces, and finally verification methods and non-destructive qualification, applying, in this case, X-ray computed tomography.

For over ten years, additive manufacturing has been one of the main lines of activity and specialization of the Andalusian technology center. 3D printing is one of the processes that bring the greatest benefits to the space sector, in which the reduction of weight, manufacturing times and costs are important. All these years of experience and research have served CATEC to develop more than 100 aerospace applications for launchers, satellites and space probes.

In addition to the QUANTUM satellite, to highlight other recent milestones, the company has developed a critical structure for the CHEOPS satellite (in collaboration with the engineering company CiTD) and the PROBA-3 mission (together with SENER), both for ESA. Also in collaboration with the European Space Agency, CiTD and AIRBUS, CATEC has recently delivered part of the secondary structure of the JUICE space probe (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer), which will study the icy moons of Jupiter.

Fernando Lasagni, CATEC’s CTO Materials and Processes, leads the team of engineers and researchers working on different technologies related to Industry 4.0 for the aerospace sector: “The launching of the EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite is another milestone for CATEC, and therefore for the Andalusian and Spanish aerospace sectors, demonstrating that we are at the forefront of additive manufacturing technology in Europe and the rest of the world, developing with no hang ups all kind of projects for the aerospace sector. This is the result of many years of work and commitment, and of an experienced team of engineers in additive manufacturing and related processes, such as Antonio Periñán, Carlos Galleguillos, among many other colleagues from CATEC”.

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