Nov 8, 2022
Satellite operator Intelsat has placed an order for the first small geostationary “HummingSat” developed as part of ESA’s efforts to support fast, dynamic and agile private space firms in Europe.
The first HummingSat – which will be called Intelsat 45 (IS-45) – is being developed under an ESA Partnership Project with SWISSto12, an innovative company based in Renens, Switzerland, that was signed in March – just eight months ago.
Named after the tiny, agile, fast-moving and yet apparently stationary hummingbird, HummingSats are just over one cubic metre in volume, which is one-tenth the size of conventional satellites that are placed in geostationary orbit some 36 000 kilometres above Earth.
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HummingSats are much more affordable to build and launch because they are small and lightweight, and are designed for rideshare missions on launchers carrying one or more larger spacecraft to geostationary transfer orbit. The satellites use innovative additive manufactured radio-frequency equipment, and are there to complement much larger legacy spacecraft, boosting and expanding capacity where needed.
Scheduled for launch in 2025, IS-45 will deliver commercial fixed-satellite services that enable Intelsat to provide a specialised and efficient service to its media and network customers.
With the IS-45 order, Intelsat becomes the first anchor customer for SWISSto12’s novel HummingSat product line, continuing its pioneering of innovative satellites. The new satellite product line recently passed its system requirements review, assessed by a panel of ESA senior engineers and experts.
Emile de Rijk, SWISSto12 founder and chief executive officer, said: “The award of the IS-45 programme by Intelsat is a landmark moment for SWISSto12. We are humbled to embark on this journey with Intelsat, who are the foundational architects of satellite communications. It is unprecedented for a specialist high growth scale-up to secure a contract of this depth with a leading telecommunications operator. It provides a solid start to our HummingSat product line to open a new chapter in the satellite communications industry. The ESA Partnership Project along with the ESA project team is of great value for us to succeed with this first HummingSat mission on IS-45.”
Jean-Luc Froeliger, Senior Vice President for Space Systems at Intelsat, said: “The SWISSto12 product brings two innovations to meet our business needs. The small size addresses a gap in our fleet strategy, enabling us to be increasingly more targeted to meet specific customer requirements. In addition, the additive manufacturing process used for this spacecraft is paving the way for faster satellite build cycles in the future. We are confident in the HummingSat technology and want to support the success of new players in the field of commercial communication satellites.”
Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “ESA creates jobs and prosperity in Europe by fostering innovation to help space companies succeed in the highly competitive global market for telecommunications satellites. We are proud to support fast, dynamic and agile private space firms such as SWISSto12 to bring innovation directly and rapidly to market, as part of ESA’s Agenda 2025 to boost commercialisation in the European space industry.”
The HummingSat Partnership Project is a showcase for innovation and disruptive technologies introduced through ESA working hand-in-hand with the space industry. ESA bears the development risks and the private partner assumes the commercial risk. With this partnership approach, challenging projects such as HummingSat become viable for the commercial market.
The project offers an opportunity for high returns on investment to industry and participating ESA member states.