Satellite 2015: “Big Four” satellite operator CEOs look forward to reconfigurable software and wonder about on-orbit servicing

by | Mar 17, 2015 | Satellites | 0 comments

In between fretting about how other sectors were intent on grabbing their frequency spectrum allocation, at Satellite 2015 in Washington D.C., space industry leaders continued the theme of increasing capacity flexibility using software reconfiguration.

The “Big Four” operators’ panel discussion was led by David McGlade, CEO of Intelsat who cited its Boeing-built family of Epic satellites, and Michel de Rosen, head of Eutelsat, who promoted his firm’s Airbus-built satellite Quantum. The panel thought that these new reconfiguration technologies could help standardise hardware reducing cost and lead times.

Karim Michel Sabbagh, the new CEO of SES, had a word of caution explaining that he could foresee a mismatch between satellite platform life of 15 to 20 years and shelf life of the payload, with obsolesce of the latter being as little as five years. This could, however, open the door to in-orbit servicing as a low cost way to upgrade satellites instead of having to replace them.

Such servicing faces the major obstacles of requiring standardised payload racks and robotic replacement technologies, but if the (satellite) platform was expensive and long lived enough, and the payload relatively inexpensive and short-lived, such a scenario could become economic and therefore a reality.

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