Site: ESA Headquarters
8-10 rue Mario-Nikis
75738 Paris Cedex 15

Date Visited: June 26, 1992

Report Author: J. Pelton



V. Chan
M. DeHaemer
R. DePaula
B. Edelson
J. Pelton


Rene C. Collette

Director of Telecommunications Programmes

Alain Pinglier

Chef du Bureau de Coordination -
Directeur des Telecommunications

A. De Agostini

DRS Mission Manager


ESA structure is provided in the ESA Annual Report. ESA carries out 10% of its R&D in the area of communications. About half of this expenditure is for operational programs such as the Data Relay Satellite program and about half for various types of R&D. The R&D money is split between specific programs such as SILEX, ARTEMIS and the Payload and Spacecraft Development and Experiments (PSDE) platforms on one hand and the much broader based technology investigation activities funded under the Advanced Systems and Technology Program (ASTP). There are no other types of outreach or collaborative projects such as the NASA/U.S. based Satellite Communications Advanced Research (SCAR) program or the Centers for Commercial Development of Space (CCDS).


Minisat and platform technologies are considered a secondary priority and may be sacrificed to budgetary cuts needed to accommodate the HERMES and COLUMBUS programs.

The OBP program is firmly committed, but its launch mode is not clear. Options under evaluation include a Minisat platform if Minisat is not cancelled; ITALSAT (F3); as a 120-150 kg payload on a EUTELSAT satellite. OBP is seen as a way of leapfrogging European VSAT technology forward, and thus it is very likely to go forward in some form or another.

Little work is being done on TV, either on DBS or HDTV, since this area is doing well under purely commercial programs. Video applications for satellites will, however, remain important into the next century.

After a number of preliminary studies, the Advanced Research in Communications using High Inclined orbits for Mobile Applications and other Experiments and Demonstrations using European Satellites (ARCHIMEDES) Program, is now starting Phase A definition. DBS audio does have promise and it is likely that a DBS radio mission may be developed for ARCHIMEDES.

The Advanced Orbital Test System (AOTS) is in the 15 year plan as a sort of "place holder." It would not become a program until 1995.


The Top Seven Technologies ESA is Now Pursuing

Rene Collette, in his role as Director of the ESA communications program, suggested that there are at least seven important new technology programs that ESA is now pursuing and the following are presented in no particular order of priority:

  1. Optical Communications - SILEX - Matra-Marconi, $220 million. (NOTE:
    U.S./NASA coordination representative is needed to work with ESA and NASDA in this area.)
  2. DRS and electronically steerable phased array antenna (S-Band, 2.5m x 2.5m).
  3. Very High Data Rate (600 Mbits/sec) SAR at Ka-band.
  4. Autonomous On-Board Satellite Control - started with OLYMPUS. The key advantages include: (i) Mass Reduction; (ii) ability to sell satellites to "non-trained" customers.
  5. Large reflector development - 15-20 m range. This is the key for future expansion of the limited L-band frequency allocations by multibeam frequency reuse. Possible joint experimental projects with Russia are being contemplated.
  6. Electric Propulsion (xenon ion engine).
  7. OBP - can be used with all kinds of communications satellites.

In addition to the above items, Dr. Collette noted that there was a very significant amount of work ongoing to develop advanced technology under ASTP projects including components, MMICs, etc.

Key Trends For ESA Are Seen As:

  1. Video satellite applications will continue to stimulate industrial growth.
  2. With continued liberalization and industry interest in private networks, VSAT will also continue to grow.
  3. Areas where there are gaps in the communication infrastructure will use satellites as a key resource (especially for Eastern Europe, islands, rural and remote locations, etc.).
  4. Mobile satellites will prove key for larger private networks for, say, truck lines, taxi/limousine services, etc. (GSM will, however, likely win out in PSTN services.)
  5. Navigation and space-borne verification systems, the latter being made up of earth observation and data relay satellites.
  6. Data Relay (and in particular DRS for Europe) has growth potential as well.
  7. Relationships between satellite and terrestrial systems will clearly be redefined.


There are clearly areas for greatly expanded European collaboration and cooperation with the U.S. and Japan. The areas having the greatest potential for cooperation involve broadband data relay (155.5 Mbits/sec to 2.488 Gbits/sec) and optical ISL technology and applications. Other areas include research on large reflectors and advanced 21st century concepts for advanced satellite designs.

Published: July 1993; WTEC Hyper-Librarian