Eutelsat orders GEO broadband satellite with LEO in mind

TAMPA, Fla. — Eutelsat said Dec. 1 it has ordered a geostationary broadband satellite to support multi-orbit services in the Americas starting in 2026.

Thales Alenia Space is designing Flexsat (flexible satellite) to host the low-Earth orbit network that the French operator is set to gain by merging with OneWeb, the UK-based constellation operator.

“This new satellite will further support Eutelsat’s growth strategy aimed at addressing the growing Connectivity segment and is also able to support joint GEO-LEO services,” Eutelsat CEO Eva Berneke said in a statement.

In their joint news release, Eutelsat and Thales said Flexsat “will host joint GEO-LEO services, especially in zones where demand is highly concentrated.”

Thales fielded questions about how the satellite would help integrate GEO and LEO networks into Eutelsat.

“We see a special emphasis [combining GEO and LEO services] by customers in the Americas and want to have a satellite that, thanks to its flexibility, will be the perfect and modular complement to the level of connectivity provided by LEO,” said Eutelsat’s corporate communications manager Daphne Joseph-Gabriel via email.

“Of course, it doesn’t mean that a GEO-placed spacecraft could provide ‘LEO-like’ services.

Flexsat will be based on Thales’ software-enabled Space Inspire platform, which allows the satellite to reconfigure once in orbit in response to changing mission needs.

While outlining the benefits of the multi-orbit architecture, Eutelsat has previously stated that its GEO satellites could provide more capacity in congested areas than OneWeb’s LEO network. In contrast, OneWeb satellites offer reduced latency and pole-to-pole coverage.

Eutelsat said Flexsat will be able to provide more than 100 gigabits per second of incremental capacity in the Americas, targeting enterprise, government, aviation and shipping customers.

It is the fifth GEO satellite that Thales has sold this year under its software-defined Space Inspire product line, following two orders from Intelsat and one of each SES and Arabsat.

In September, Thales said it had sold a more classic GEO satellite to South Korea’s KT Sat without a software-defined payload, which can offer better economy for operators with stable demand forecasts who also want to develop their spacecraft faster.

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