The space industry is undergoing some profound changes, from the miniaturization of satellites and launchers and the emergence of a new, low-cost space race to observation satellites with never-before-seen capabilities. Over the past several years, these shifts have generated a large number of projects in an environment characterized by very high technological added value.
ALTEN has a long history of partnership with the space industry’s leading stakeholders. The company is an active participant in a rapidly-changing landscape, and one of its roles is as a top-tier supplier of satellite engineering and integration services.
Insights by Dominique Palanque, Project Manager.
Where do ALTEN engineers come in during the lifecycle of a satellite?
Our engineers are involved in the upstream and downstream phases, right up to the launch pad, where we complete the final testing and configuration. Whether it is an observation or telecommunications satellite, our engineers are also involved in the early stages, when the satellite’s future mission is designed. We work on issues like reliability, costs, and scheduling. Scheduling is one of the major challenges of any satellite project, and we have really demonstrated our capacity to stick to very tight deadlines.
Later on in the process we manage quite a few Assembly Integration Test (AIT) projects, which take place in clean rooms, for Airbus D&S’s big telecommunications satellite programs, for example. Our engineers possess know-how ranging from avionics to optics and radiofrequency and are involved in the entire satellite manufacturing cycle, from assembling components and installing and connecting the electronics and other devices right up to validating the systems in response to mission simulations.
Those sound like some big challenges and responsibilities!
There is no room for error. You can’t fix a satellite once it is in orbit. Everything has to work from the beginning or the mission will fail. Making sure that the on-board electronics and software work with their environment and with ground command is a crucial and critical step. This type of validation testing is completed by engineers trained on safety operations.
ALTEN has a lot of experience in the space industry. Is that why so many industry leaders have placed their trust in you?
Of course. We now have a track record of more than 20 years in the space industry, working for France’s National Center for Space Studies, Airbus D&S, and other major players. We have completed more than 80 satellite projects to date.
Our space engineering team is nearly 200-strong today, which positions us to offer substantial capacities. We are also very good at recruiting high-potential candidates and at training. Our training system is very mature and is backed by around 50 courses and a team of experts to support our junior engineers.
ALTEN, getting the skills for tomorrow’s space technologies on board today
France’s National Center for Space Studies: Taranis satellite to observe electromagnetic phenomena
Taranis is the first-ever satellite to observe and measure transient luminous, radiative, and electromagnetic events in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The launch is planned for early 2020.
The National Center for Space Studies turned to ALTEN to complete all of the integration work on the satellite, under a unique delegation agreement—proof of the Center’s trust in ALTEN. All integration tasks will be completed under ALTEN’s responsibility right up to the delivery of the satellite to the launch pad in Kourou.
A new technology for locating Argos beacons was integrated into an Indian satellite that will be launched in January 2020.
ALTEN assisted with the Assembly Integration Testing (AIT) of the payload module in Toulouse and is also working on mounting the module onto Indian satellite OCEANSAT-3. The payload will use Argos-4 to communicate with the miniaturized chips on the objects and marine wildlife to be observed.
The miniaturization of electronics is revolutionizing the space industry. It is now possible to manufacture satellites that weigh in at less than 20 kg. ALTEN is working on several new technology programs to make nanosatellites more affordable and to load several satellites onto a single launcher to reduce launch costs.
The opportunities on the burgeoning nanosatellite and mini-launcher markets have resulted in an influx of new entrants, including many startups and small companies. Technological revolutions like digitization, big data, and IoT are fueling trends like New Space and Industry 4.0. These emerging markets and new market entrants will also create future opportunities for ALTEN.