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Tailored for success – a mix of reliability and innovation

Airbus Defence and Space’s Eurostar series is a model of a ‘virtuous circle’

A series right at the forefront of its sector

Satellite operators need to be sure that the product they select will guarantee consistent high-quality operations precisely matching their communications mission requirements, whatever they may be, and they have certainly demonstrated their confidence in Eurostar satellites: over 60 Eurostar satellites have been ordered to date.

What keeps the Eurostar series at the forefront of this most rapidly changing, increasingly competitive sector of the space business is its winning combination of reliability and innovation, twin principles on which the Eurostar concept is founded. A generic fundamental architecture is common to all Eurostar satellites, providing the assurance of a robust, proven structure coupled with the flexibility of a highly modular design for the ultimate tailor-made solution, while the product line is continually evolving through staged development and extensive qualification campaigns, with progressive introduction of new technologies bringing additional benefits and capabilities to meet and anticipate demand.

From the outset, numerous Airbus Defence and Space Eurostar innovations have proved so advantageous that they have been adopted by the industry at large: fully digital electronics, for example, initially introduced on the first pioneer Eurostar satellites, has become standard on telecommunications satellites in general. In 2004, Eutelsat W3A, the new-generation Eurostar E3000 model, was the first commercial satellite to fly and successfully demonstrate in orbit Lithium-ion batteries, a revolution in communications satellite power which other satellite manufacturers are now applying to their own products in development. Put simply, Eurostar development is a model of a ‘virtuous circle’ in which innovation constantly enhances reliability.

A history of evolution

The dual objective of providing reliability with innovation has been a feature from the very inception of the Eurostar programme, in 1981, when the then British Aerospace and Matra (Airbus Defence and Space’s predecessor companies) teamed to design a new communications satellite platform, incorporating the very latest technologies, particularly with a view to producing a viable competitor to US dominance in the sector. Development began just two years later. The design featured a novel mass-saving solar sailing concept, improved, smoother control, the first-in-class digital electronics, and the high degree of modularity and flexibility in payload accommodation which characterises the Eurostar satellites. This was the E1000 series, and the very first customer, importantly, was Inmarsat, which selected Eurostar for its four second-generation Inmarsat-2 satellites. Incidentally, this led to the first ‘evolution’ of the Eurostar design, since the platform had originally been sized for launch on Ariane or the shuttle whereas Inmarsat chose Delta for the debut Eurostar launch in 1990, entailing the production of a downscaled version. The next version, E2000, was then chosen by the French government for its four Telecom 2 satellites, followed in 1989 by another milestone, the first Eurostar export order, from Hispasat for Spain’s first national communications satellite system, including the complete ground system, also E2000. In response to market demands the larger, high-power upgrade E2000+ was introduced, a huge commercial success, serving as the platform for Eutelsat’s Hot Bird 2–5 and 7 broadcast satellites (at the time of its launch in November 1996, Hot Bird 2 was the biggest and most powerful television satellite), ST-1, Eutelsat W1, Astra 2B, the Worldstar series, and Hellas-Sat. The Arabsat-4 spacecraft are also based on the E2000+ design.

Some 10 years later the third generation E3000 was developed, as the need for an even more capable product to address higher power missions and to maximise scale effect (lower cost per transponder) became evident. It also had to offer a solution to enable the company to compete with the other larger platforms on the market, and to be adapted to the new launchers which were now available. One of the most ambitious aims was to introduce much greater autonomy of operations, thus reducing customers’ operational costs and providing greater flexibility. Today the E3000 offers the highest power scalability and enhanced payload accommodation, and a number of advanced features and options including plasma propulsion and the Lithium-ion batteries, an Airbus Defence and Space-designed innovation. Successfully introduced in orbit in 2004 with Eutelsat W3A, this Eurostar version is setting new standards for communications missions in a single, highly competitive product.

A European product – made by Airbus Defence and Space

Eurostar was born out of a challenge – to bring onto the global market a European product to rival the American satellites. Its initial and on-going success is a lasting tribute to the vision, commitment and combined competence of major players in the European space industry at the time, now consolidated into Airbus Defence and Space.


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