Friday, January 25, 2019

Airbus and Thales Athena Maxar Teams Complete System Requirements Reviews for Telesat LEO Constellation

          By Henry Stewart

Ottawa ON based Telsat has announced that the two teams developing competing designs for Telesat’s global low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation have successfully completed their system requirements reviews.

As outlined in the January 24th, 2019 Telesat press release, "System Requirements Review Completed for Telesat’s LEO Constellation" both teams, the first led by Leiden Netherlands based Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus) with a second composed of Cannes France based Thales Alenia Space and Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies, are "continuing to advance their detailed designs for the complete LEO system, both space and ground segments."

Systems requirement reviews typically examine functional and performance requirements to insure that the concept proposal will satisfy the mission. They are a critical component in the design review.

As outlined on its website, the Telesat global LEO constellation is a proposed:
... state-of-the-art satellite constellation of highly advanced satellites in low-earth-orbit (~1,000 km from earth; ~35 times closer than traditional satellites) that will seamlessly integrate with terrestrial networks. 
The global network will deliver fiber quality throughput (Gbps links; low latency) anywhere on earth. This is a highly flexible system that dynamically allocates capacity where there’s demand, thus maximizing system efficiency.
Telesat has worldwide rights to the ≈4 GHz of Ka-band spectrum the constellation will use. Initial funding for the LEO constellation was provided by the Canadian and Ontario governments.

As outlined in the August 2nd, 2018 post, "Airbus Competing Against Thales/ Maxar to Design and Build the 117 Satellite Telesat Constellation," two Telesat development satellites using slightly different design philosophies were initially contracted for testing. However:
... the low Earth orbit prototype 2 (LEO-2) built by Palo Alto, CA based SSL (a Maxar subsidiary) with Toronto ON based University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Spaceflight Laboratories (SFL) acting as prime contractor, was lost when the Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrying the satellite failed to reach orbit in November 2017.  
LEO Vantage-1, built by Guildford UK based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), a world leader in small satellites and part of Airbus Defence and Space, launched successfully in January 2018.
While it's not clear how the LEO-2 team completed their reviews without a satellite to test, it seems that both teams are still in the running.

Telsat has promised that a final decision on which team will build the Telesat LEO constellation will be made later this year.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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