Dec 1, 2023
SpainSat NG 1 satellite is in its final testing phase with most critical components already integrated on the spacecraft and major systems having been validated in preparation for launch in 2024.
Military satellite communications play an increasingly important role in operating effectively in multiple domains whether in military operations or in humanitarian relief and rescue missions. This is why the Spanish Ministry of Defence (MoD) is upgrading its satellite communications capabilities. The Spanish Government satellite operator and service provider, Hisdesat, is developing the SPAINSAT NG Programme for the Spanish MoD through a Public Private Partnership, and selected Airbus DS System as prime contractor for the space segment.
The programme consists of a set of twin satellites, SpainSat NG I and SpainSat NG II, which aim to provide secure and reliable communications for military operations, as well as supporting humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. They will serve the Spanish Armed Forces and other national and allied government agencies.
The SPAINSAT NG programme is perhaps the most advanced there is currently in secure satellite communications in Europe, and it is being carried out mainly in Spain. The programme development had to overcome difficult challenges including: the pandemic, the Filomena snowstorm, heavy supply chain tensions, and the war in Ukraine, but despite these, it is on track for entering into service in 2025.
SpainSat NG satellites are equipped with the most advanced technology available on the market today.
At the heart of the spacecraft is the state-of-the-art transmit and receive active antenna system built by Airbus Defence and Space in Spain, which is a fundamental component of the satellites' mission. This cutting-edge system enables the antenna's coverage and performance to be dynamically adapted to the needs of the mission using sophisticated software processing. This cutting-edge direct radiating array (DRA) system also incorporates advanced features such as the ability to switch between different coverage zones thousands of times per second, the capability to adapt the coverage zones to reduce unwelcomed signals and the ability to locate terrestrial emitters of known or unknown origin with high accuracy.
These features are possible thanks to key technological building blocks such as the gallium nitride (GaN) solid-state amplifier technology providing superior power efficiency and linearity than the legacy Gallium arsenide (GaAs) technology. In addition, the tailor-made beamforming networks based on high-density X-band hybrid radio frequency modules which now integrate hundreds of phase and amplitude control nodes in a small footprint, enable the implementation of up to 16 independent beams on each active antenna in order to serve the most demanding missions. Moreover, their transparent digital processor on board makes them "software-defined satellites”.
picture of Spainsat NG DRA
Direct Radiating Array (DRA) active antenna- Copyright Airbus
These technological developments result in a flexible and versatile system capable of providing protection against any interference, spoofing attempts and high-altitude nuclear explosions.
Watch the SPAINSAT NG video for more information:
The SPAINSAT NG programme passed the critical design review in December 2021 and is now in the final testing phase. The prime contractor is Airbus Defence and Space. Airbus in Spain is also responsible for the X-band equipment and Thales Alenia Space España for the UHF and military Ka-band equipment.
The SpainSat NG I satellite is scheduled for entering into service in 2025, and will provide coverage to Europe, Africa and America from geostationary orbit.
The development and integration of innovative satellite payload elements, such as reconfigurable transmit and receive X-band active antennas, and the deployable pallet with individually steerable Ka-band antennas, have been supported by ESA's Pacis 3 partnership project. This partnership project, thanks to ESA funding, takes the risk out of the partners' investments when responding to market needs.