ESA gives satcom industry a helping hand

22 November 2011

Developing an idea can lead to great things, especially when ESA is on your side. Supporting European industry is one of ESA’s roles, giving companies a helping hand to prosper in international markets.

It is one thing to send a satellite into space, but once in orbit constant communication is required to keep the satellite operating. Specific software is needed to control and maintain satellite operations. ESA typically contracts the satellite control software out to external companies.

Equal opportunities and fairness are guaranteed by a common set of rules and procedures to be followed both by companies and the European Space Agency. The case of Spanish company, GMV is a concrete example of how ESA works to maintain and expand Europe’s technology base, boosting the global competitiveness of European industry.

MPO with MLI

GMV was contracted by ESA in the 1980s to develop control systems for scientific and Earth observation missions using ESA-owned data systems. The software was proven on older ESA missions such as Meteosat and ERS-1, and will be used on future missions such as BepiColombo, Swarm and Sentinel.

The knowledge gained from these contracts has allowed GMV, in the span of 25 years, to become a world leader in satellite ground control systems. Almost half of all commercial telecom satellites launched in 2010 use GMV technology for monitoring and controlling satellites in space.

The products are not only applicable to the European market: GMV was recently selected to modernise the ground control for NASA’s Tracking Data and Relay Satellite system.

ESOC, Darmstadt, is home to ESA's mission operations team
ESOC: home to ESA's mission operations

“GMV has traditionally made an effort to exploit technology acquired through our involvement in different ESA projects,” says Miguel Angel Molina Cobos, GMV Business Development Manager.

“We are convinced that there is still a world of opportunities to explore.”

Of course, this is only one example of the many industries ESA helped develop. Through its ARTES programme, ESA has been supporting the European satcom industry since 1975.

The term ARTES may not be familiar to consumers, but industry has called it the key source in Europe for innovation in satellite communications.

ARTES offers different levels of financial aid, allowing European industry to take bigger risks in developing new technologies. This helps to secure Europe’s place in the worldwide satcom market.

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