Airbus and Thales awarded Neosat contract

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Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space have been awarded roughly a third share of an €18m European Space Agency contract to develop Neosat, Europe’s next generation communications satellite.

Airbus will contribute to the satellite design, communications module, service module and propulsion module definition, while Thales Alenia Space UK will contribute to the design and manufacture of the propulsion subsystem via their Neosat product line.

Lighter and smaller than the current platforms, Neosat will feature an all-electric version and, in response to customer requirements, will also be available with a chemical propulsion system.

The new contract follows the UK Space Agency’s increased investment to over €200m in the ESA telecommunications programme, ARTES, at the last ESA Council of Ministers.

ESA projects that there will be €30bn worth of telecommunications satellites built before 2030 and anticipate that Neosat will form a significant portion of that new market, representing a potential return for UK companies of billions of Euros.

In a statement, minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said: ‘This new platform provides a significant opportunity for the UK space industry and will not only help to create as many as 100,000 new jobs by 2030, but also to deliver future orders and exports for the industry.’

The contract for Phase-B of the Neosat programme is expected to last around 13 months. The subsequent Phase-C/D will start in 2015 for the development and manufacture of the first two prototype flight platforms, launch in 2018–19 and in-orbit demonstration under a public–private partnership to be established with satellite operators.