Europe’s robotic arm will be launched into space on Airbus’ OneSat satellites.

Europe's robotic arm will be launched into space on Airbus' OneSat satellites.

European-Made Robotic Arm Approved for Space Launch

Robotic Arm The robotic arm will help engineers optimize OneSat’s fuel consumption. Credit: ESA

A robotic arm, designed and manufactured solely by European companies, has successfully passed its qualification review for deployment into space as part of the OneSat range of satellites. This approval means that OneSat will now be fully propelled by European technology, making it a significant achievement for the European space industry.

The robotic deployment and pointing system plays a crucial role in positioning the satellite’s plasma thrusters away from the body of the satellite, which optimizes the consumption of the xenon fuel. This innovative system was designed by Airbus in France and manufactured and qualified by Euro Heat Pipes, a Belgian company. The successful qualification of this system is a testament to the remarkable capabilities and advancements in European space technology.

European collaboration extends beyond France and Belgium in the development of the OneSat satellite. Sener from Spain contributed to the project by designing the rotary actuator, while Mécano-ID from France built the booms. French company Latelec was responsible for designing the harnesses, and Safran, another French company, developed and built the plasma thruster. This joint effort showcases the strength of European collaboration and the diverse expertise within the European space industry.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the deployment and pointing system is not only an engineering feat but also promotes European autonomy and contributes significantly to the European industrial footprint of the OneSat project. The ESA further emphasizes the essential role this system plays in maintaining European industrial capabilities in the space sector.

OneSat is a standardized telecommunication satellite that is being developed jointly by the ESA, the French space agency CNES, the UK Space Agency, and satellite manufacturer Airbus. These satellites are designed to support radio, TV, and internet connections globally, especially in remote communities without access to wired connections.

What sets OneSat apart from its predecessors is its unique ability to be fully reconfigured while in orbit. It can adjust its coverage area, capacity, and frequency “on the fly” to meet evolving mission scenarios. This adaptability is made possible due to their modular design, which utilizes off-the-shelf components. As a result, OneSat satellites can enter the market up to 50% faster than current telecommunication satellites and at a lower cost. This makes them an attractive option for telecommunications companies looking to save money and gain flexibility.

The market demand for OneSat satellites is already evident, with several companies, including Inmarsat, Optus, Intelsat, and SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, placing orders for these advanced satellites. SKY Perfect’s order is particularly noteworthy as it marks the first time a Japanese operator has purchased European satellites. This highlights the international recognition and trust in European space technology.

The successful qualification and upcoming launch of the European-made robotic arm for OneSat satellites represent a significant milestone for the European space industry. This achievement not only demonstrates the capabilities and expertise of European manufacturers but also strengthens European autonomy in the space sector. With the ability to adapt and reconfigure in orbit, OneSat satellites offer a cost-effective and flexible solution for global telecommunication needs. As the European space industry continues to innovate and collaborate, it cements its position as a key player in the international space market.