Paris, 01 Jul 2003
Meeting at Le Bourget last week, leading European space contractors signed a milestone co-operation agreement paving the way for future high-powered satellite communications.
Two major European space manufacturers, Alcatel Space and Astrium, announced a co-operation deal which, if successful, will revitalise the European satellite telecommunications (satcom) sector. CEOs from the two companies shook on the deal while attending the European Space Agency (ESA) pavilion at the Paris Air Show last week. "[The AlphaBus] agreement is a historical decision that sees two main actors … join forces on an ambitious project that will keep Europe at the forefront of the key satellite telecommunications sector. The success of this project is essential for Europe's future in space," said Claudio Mastracci, ESA's director of applications.
The satcom sector is priming itself for huge growth in the future. Heavy demand by current users of satellite platforms, such as telephony operators and TV broadcasters, may eventually have to make way for the next generation of multimedia and mobile services.
2007, a space odyssey
With the launch of AlphaBus, Alcatel and Astrium are looking to become major players in the high-performance satcom platforms market, which demands increasingly reliable satellites with higher payload capacity and lower service costs for users. AlphaBus will offer a payload power of between 12 and 18 kW, which will be expandable in the event of growing satellite communications demand.
Starting as a collaboration between ESA and the French space agency CNES, AlphaBus was given the initial go-ahead by ESA member states at its Edinburgh council meeting in November 2001. Under two years later, and with the agreement reached last week between the major contractors in the project, AlphaBus is ever closer to becoming a reality.
Scheduled for launch in 2007, the new satellite platform will join its fellow European satellites, Spacebus and Eurostar, in servicing Europe's growing satcom needs, while upholding Europe's excellent record in space science and technology.
The leading European players in the satellite industry have pooled their expertise to provide Europe with a platform that will play a vital role in the future of satellite communications. Collaboration of this kind also reinforces one of the Union's space policy ambitions: to develop a coherent approach to space, mobilising public and private resources, scientific skills and industry in the framework of major joint projects.