Satnews Daily
September 12th, 2017

The Build of Four New Satellites for Pléiades Neo Constellation Well Underway by Airbus

The production of Airbus’ four, new, very high resolution satellites, which together will form the Pléiades Neo constellation, is well on schedule for launch in 2020.

They will join the already existing Airbus constellation of optical and radar satellites and will offer enhanced performance and the highest reactivity in the market as a result of their direct access to the data relay communication system, known as the SpaceDataHighway.
This first batch of four optical and agile satellites will double the number of visits per day anywhere on Earth and offer a re-tasking rate which is five times higher than previous constellations. Each satellite will be adding half a million km² per day at 30cm resolution to Airbus’ offering. These images will be streamed into the OneAtlas online platform, allowing customers to have immediate data access, analytics and correlation with Airbus’ unique archive of optical and radar data.

Pléiades Neo will use the SpaceDataHighway to ensure the highest system reactivity, lowest latency and high volume data transfer. Thanks to the very high communication bandwidth possible with lasers of up to 1.8 Gbit/s and the geostationary orbit positioning of the relay satellites, up to 40 terabytes per day can be transmitted securely in quasi-real-time to Earth, as opposed to the delay of several hours sometimes experienced today. The four satellites will be equipped with reactive Ka-band terminals that will allow last minute tasking updates, even if the satellites are beyond their ground stations’ line-of-sight. This is an important asset for customers, when it comes to the assessment of natural disasters and first line response for civil and military applications.

The integrated next generation laser terminals are optimized in terms of power and will save 60 percent in mass and size compared to currently used terminals. They are designed by Tesat Spacecom and developed under a partnership between the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and Airbus. These generational advancements have the added advantage of driving significant cost efficiencies in design and integration. Development and verification are supported by the DLR’s Space Administration with funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Customers will be able to take advantage of increased monitoring capability and operational efficiency. In line with Airbus’ strategy for increased digitalization and connectivity, the company's next-generation ground segments will foster access to the information, offering machine learning and automated analytics applications. They will also provide multi-mission capabilities and large-scale image processing. Entirely funded, manufactured, owned and operated by Airbus, Pléiades Neo is a breakthrough in Earth observation domain and will provide customers with high-level service continuity for the next 15 years.

Illustration of the European Data Relay System. Image is courtesy of ESA.

The SpaceDataHighway, also known as the European Data Relay System (EDRS), was developed through a public-private partnership (PPP) between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, and actually benefits to the Sentinel satellites of the European Union’s Copernicus program. Pléiades Neo will be the first commercial constellation to be equipped with this technology, and therefore able to provide a unique responsiveness level.

Evert Dudok, Head of Communications, Intelligence and Security at Airbus Defence and Space.

According to Evert Dudok, Head of Communications, Intelligence and Security at Airbus Defence and Space, with Pléiades Neo, this will be the most advanced high-resolution constellation for both commercial and secured governmental applications, with another four satellites added to the existing Airbus fleet of 10 accessible Earth observation satellites. The fact that Pléiades Neo is equipped with the latest Laser Communication Technology gives customers an advantage of speed.