SES signs deal to launch European quantum crypto satellite

SES signs deal to launch European quantum crypto satellite

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

SES has signed a deal to launch a European end-to-end Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system satellite.

Eagle-1 will  be launched into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by Arianespace on a Vega C rocket from French Guiana at the end of 2024.

The project includes the ground infrastructure developed by SES and its consortium of 20 European partners, with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission support.

This will be the first sovereign quantum cryptography satellite system, a key aim of the recent Space strategy. The aim is to allow the validation of the key quantum secure communications systems and support the national Quantum Communications Infrastructures (QCIs) within the EuroQCI initiative.

“Building the EAGLE-1 end-to-end system for secure data transmission and validating the long-distance Quantum Key Distribution technology is an innovative project that will benefit the EU Member States,” said Ruy Pinto, Chief Technology Officer at SES. “We have been working with Arianespace for decades to deliver our satellites into space and are delighted for them to be onboard to launch the EAGLE-1 satellite into orbit.”

Vega C is the new European light launcher which passed its inaugural flight on July 13 and now enters its operational phase under the responsibility of Arianespace. With this contract, Vega C backlog includes over 40 satellites contracts.

The Vega C development programme has been managed by ESA with 12 Member States of the Agency. Avio Spa in Colleferro, Italy, is the industrial prime of the Vega launch system.

The rocket has been upgraded with more powerful first and second stage Solid Rocket Motors and with a larger fairing, which significantly increases payload mass and double allowable volume as compared to Vega. The launcher also better meets the specific needs of small spacecraft with an improved SSMS dispenser and to its AVUM+ that allows seven re-ignitions instead of five.

This allows Vega C to deliver satellites to three different separation orbits in the same mission, instead of the two previously possible with Vega.

“We are delighted and honored by this renewed mark of confidence from the leading global content connectivity service provider SES,” noted Marino Fragnito, director of Arianespace’s Vega business unit. “Over the last 38 years, we have carried out 42 launches for our longstanding partner, and Vega C will now continue this successful track record. It is a great honor for us to support our customer ambitions and to be part of this mission that aims at implementing Europe’s satellite-enabled cybersecurity technology.”

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