Airbus Portsmouth opens cleanroom to showcase revolutionary satellite

Game-changing Eutelsat Quantum 3.5 tonne satellite, manufactured by Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology, is a 'quantum leap' in design

Eutelsat Quantum is built using a new modular, flexible and reliable geostationary telecom platform. Picture credit: Airbus

Airbus has opened its cleanroom facility in Portsmouth, UK, to showcase the Eutelsat Quantum satellite, a revolutionary telecommunications spacecraft currently being built at the factory. British astronaut Tim Peake and Cleanroom Technology were among the selected guests.

Eutelsat Quantum is described as the world’s first geostationary telecommunications satellite that will be fully reconfigurable in orbit. It is being developed under a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus and satellite operator Eutelsat. Airbus is also manufacturing partner alongside Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL).

Upon completion, Eutelsat Quantum will be the first generation of universal satellites able to serve any region of the world and adjust to new business without the user needing to procure and launch an entirely new satellite.

Featuring phased array antennas and flexible connectivity, which is fully reconfigurable in orbit, Eutelsat Quantum will be able to adjust its coverage and capacity to suit customers’ needs as and when they change.

It builds on the payload technology developed by Airbus in the UK under the ESA Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems programme (ARTES) and supported by the UK Space Agency.

Cleanroom Class 8

The payload is under construction in Airbus's ISO Class 8 cleanroom, which has recently been refurbished with new LED lighting and floor surfacing.

The positive pressure atmosphere in the cleanroom ensures that unwanted foreign particles that could potentially damage critical components are minimised and removed. The controlled environment also protects against damaging electrostatic forces as well as the out-gassing of any materials. A particular frequency of radiation emitted by some machinery also has to be avoided.

The payload is under construction in Airbus's ISO Class 8 cleanroom. Picture credit: Airbus

Investment in cleanrooms for satellite production has grown in recent years as the industry is booming. Airbus also operates cleanrooms in Stevenage (UK) and in Toulouse, (France), where the Eutelsat Quantum satellite will go for final testing before it is transported to the launch site.

Other guests at the event included: Graham Turnock, head of the UK Space Agency, Yohann Leroy, deputy CEO and CTO of Eutelsat, Simon Weinberg, Quantum project manager at ESA, Colin Paynter, head of Airbus Space UK and Sarah Parker, managing director of SSTL.

“We’re working together with industry to grow the UK’s share of the global space market, as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy,” commented Dr Turnock.

He continued: “It was fantastic to visit Airbus alongside Tim Peake and meet the team behind this world-first satellite. The UK invests more than any other country in ESA’s telecommunications research programme and the work going on in Portsmouth is a great example of the benefits this brings.”

Commenting on the project, Eutelsat’s Leroy, said: “Eutelsat Quantum is the 24 satellite to be manufactured by Airbus for Eutelsat, building on a long-standing and innovative collaboration spanning more than 40 years between our two Groups. Combining flexibility and performance, the Eutelsat Quantum will bring a truly revolutionary shift to the commercial telecommunications satellite sector to meet the multiple and evolving needs of our customers.”

As well as visiting the cleanroom to see the satellite, Tim Peake took time to speak to apprentices and graduates at Airbus as well as meeting other employees.

Airbus’ Colin Paynter, head of space in the UK, commented: “It was great to welcome Tim to Portsmouth where we build world leading telecommunication payloads for satellites. Quantum is a truly disruptive technology with the ability to be fully flexible and reconfigurable at any stage in its lifetime in orbit.”

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