PARIS — Manufacturers say software-defined satellites that can redesign beams and capacity have shifted from a wish-list feature to a requirement for operators.
Satellite operators are still buying multi-ton geostationary satellites at below average rates, but for manufacturers to close even a limited number of sales, so-called “flexible” satellites that can dynamically move capacity around are a must-have.
“Real-time flexibility: that’s the price of admission these days,” Guy Beutelschies, Lockheed Martin Space vice president of communication satellite solutions, said Sept. 11 at the World Satellite Business Week conference here. “Most customers that we’re talking to want that capability onboard and are demanding that capability onboard to have that reprogrammability.”
This year, three manufacturers have introduced dedicated reprogrammable satellite products — Airbus with OneSat, Boeing with its 702X series and Thales Alenia Space with Inspire. But regardless of whether manufacturers have a nameplate reprogrammable satellite, all said they are incorporating digital payload technology to give their satellites flexibility.
The reason operators are demanding flexible satellites is because many are no longer comfortable building a 15-year business plan around a new satellite since telecom demand is continuing its shift from television broadcasting to internet connectivity.
Jean-Marc Nasr, head ...