Technology is ESA Telecom's main programme covering the early stages of development of new and promising technologies in satellite communications.
Through ASTE, ESA sponsors the development of new technologies to a point where the private sector can become directly involved and participate in the funding.
Within Europe there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise to be drawn upon and the ASTE programme works across borders to co-ordinate individual skills and resources.
Many studies and developments already undertaken are on the verge of becoming commercial products or services on the world market.
ASTE allows participating countries to prepare the technological groundwork to allow them to take part in future commercial initiatives, including large-scale ventures.
Key elements of European multimedia systems - Skybridge, Euroskyway and West Early Bird - were originally developed in ASTE.
One example of the way the ARTES programme takes an idea from inception to the market is the development of the Skyplex concept.
Digital and multimedia
The Skyplex payload allows the up-linking of digital television and multimedia services from different sites to a single satellite.
On-board hardware combines these signals into a single downlink which is received by decoders connected to TV sets or personal computers.
Skyplex avoids the need to feed the individual components of the DVB signal to a central multiplexing facility on ground and is particularly suitable for up-linking from individual TV stations or multiple small data service providers.
The original Skyplex idea, patented by ESA, was developed under the ARTES 5 programme in the mid-1990s. Future developments of the enhanced features and of the associated Earth terminals were then carried out under partnership with ESA Telecom and equipment development programmes.
On the basis of the co-operation with industry and operators, Skyplex units have been flown and brought into service by Eutelsat on the Hot Bird 4 and 5 telecommunications satellites, and may be incorporated on Hot Birds 6 and 7 and Arabsat.
In each case ESA has funded the specific innovations required for each new generation of Skyplex, leaving procurement of all recurring units to the commercial relationship between industry and the satellite operators.
Last update: 20 August 2002