Thales Alenia Space is developing cutting edge satellite technology which puts it at the forefront of space innovation in the UK
As we become ever more interconnected with one another, the pace of change is increasing at a rate never previously imagined or conceived. This is true in many fields of endeavour, and the application of space technology is a prime example. We are all increasingly dependent on and consuming more and more ‘space’ data, as part of our daily lives; from using GPS navigation whilst driving our cars, travelling on trains or planes, to watching the latest ‘on demand’ videos on our smart phones. Satellites are at the heart of this trend; constantly ‘on’ as they gather and send large volumes of the data back down to earth.
There have been several important developments in the space sector that make all of this possible; and as the demand for using space based information grows, there has been an explosion in the number of applications and devices designed to entertain and help us ‘manage’ our daily lives.
Manufacturing costs coming down
Significantly, at the same time as this, the cost of manufacturing satellites and satellite applications has been reducing, making it much more attractive and accessible to industries, as well as governments and their countries, to benefit from these cutting edge innovations. For example, Thales Alenia Space, the largest designer and manufacturer of telecoms constellations in the world, created ‘Iridium-Next’ – a telecommunications satellite constellation designed using the most advanced engineering, robotic and miniaturisation techniques – making it possible to increase the power of the satellites whilst significantly reducing the cost of manufacture.
Today, as we look to the future, many are seeking to take advantage of these developments. One example is in the field of meteorology, where there’s been rapid evolution of weather monitoring instrumentation to provide faster and more reliable weather predictions, as well as the tracking of severe weather patterns. This provides better information and improvements to the early warning systems needed by those in the affected areas. Thales Alenia Space UK is also developing instruments to monitor air quality, an important development for managing climate change and monitoring air pollution in densely populated towns and cities and for future urban planning.
Other applications may be less familiar. Satellites provide vital timing data to the global financial markets, including electronic banking services deployed in remote rural areas where often there is limited or no physical infrastructure or high speed internet. These important services allow people to ‘virtually’ connect with one another, far beyond the physical borders of their own countries, which in turn enables trade to take place, allowing people to contribute to their local (micro) economy.
From crop health to human health
Sectors such as agriculture are already benefiting from space-borne earth observation services to great effect, for everything from disease prevention and crop health management, to carbon sequestration and field levelling to help prevent water loss. Satellite data will increasingly play an even greater role in this sector as food production and crop yields need to increase. The Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations’ agency, published a report in 2009 which suggested that by 2050 agricultural production will have to rise by 70% to meet projected demand.
Satellites are also key to the provision of healthcare services; particularly those deployed in remote areas where access to even the most basic healthcare is extremely limited, as well as the life-saving care which forms part of humanitarian aid programmes. With the advent of High-Throughput communication, video and internet, healthcare can now be offered to those who need it most, quicker and more cost effectively – and all of this is only made possible through satellites and satellite application services.
Space innovation in the UK and Europe
At the centre of this world-class innovation is Thales Alenia Space, the world leader in the production of satellite constellations. Thales Alenia Space creates space systems and payloads that provide communications, navigation and environmental monitoring. Other systems and payloads also monitor the environment to help improve our understanding of climate change and drive scientific progress. Thales Alenia Space has also been a pivotal partner in Europe’s missions to explore our solar system. Currently, Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for the ExoMars Rover and Orbiter, Herschel and Planck flagship infrared observatories, and the Euclid deep space mission.
Thales Alenia Space has built up unrivalled expertise in dual (civil-military) missions, constellations, flexible High-Throughput communications, payloads, altimetry, meteorology, and high-resolution radar and optical observation, as well as deep space exploration. Thales Alenia Space has firmly established its leadership in today’s fast-evolving space sector. It posted consolidated revenues exceeding €2.1 billion in 2015 and has 7,500 employees in 9 countries.
In the UK, Thales Alenia Space (TAS-UK) has world leading design, test, integration and manufacturing facilities in Bristol, Harwell and Belfast. TAS-UK contributes to a range of major ESA science programmes such as the ExoMars Rover and the BepiColombo mission to Mercury and is also responsible for the Broadband Radiometer – a space-borne instrument – as part of the European Space Agency ‘EarthCARE’ programme, which will help scientists understand and monitor climate change. TAS-UK is also making an important contribution to the next generation Neosat telecommunications satellite development for Europe.
Looking to the future, where Thales Alenia Space continues to be the world leader of satellite constellations and spacecraft propulsion, it provides the best innovative solutions to meet the most complex science and space challenges, bringing the benefits of space to each of us.
Head of Government Affairs and Agency Liaison
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Please note: this is a commercial profile