The first reprogrammable satellite explosions in space
The world’s first fully reprogrammable commercial satellite lifted off from French Guiana on Friday aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, ushering in a new era of more flexible communications.
Unlike traditional models, which are designed and “plugged in” on the ground and cannot be reused once in orbit, Eutelsat Quantum allows users to adapt communications according to their needs, in near real time.
The satellite will go into orbit about 36 minutes after launch.
Because it can be reprogrammed while orbiting at a fixed location 35,000 kilometers above Earth, Quantum can respond to new demands for data transmission and secure communications during its 15-year lifespan, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
The 3.5-ton quantum model contains eight communications beams, each of which can be modified to change its coverage area and the strength of the communications signal it transmits.
With software made available to the customer, these changes can be made “within minutes,” according to Eutelsat.
This means that a satellite can provide mobile coverage for moving objects, such as ocean planes or ships, or provide coverage after a natural disaster or one-off events.
At a time of growing concern about space debris and digital security, as well as the potential for the militarization of the universe, Quantum can determine the source of signals emitted with or without malicious intent and take steps to address the interference.
Concerns about space debris
Speaking to CGTN Europe earlier this year, Moriba Jah, principal investigator at AstriaGraph, a site that tracks space debris, said the components of the older rockets were “time bombs” due to the potential collision risk.
They could hit active satellites that provide important systems on Earth or explode into thousands of pieces, Gah said, triggering “highly dispersed events” as they continue to orbit the planet.
In July, Germany inaugurated a new Space Command, a military body tasked with monitoring space, protecting satellites and monitoring space debris.
Germany is currently observing about 30,000 pieces of space debris with a diameter of 10 centimeters or more, a size believed to have the potential to destroy a typical satellite, according to the European Space Agency.
The increase in debris is due in part to commercial operators such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its Starlink network, which aim to launch tens of thousands of satellites to provide global Wi-Fi from space.