The European Space Agency (ESA) launched the world’s first commercial fully reprogrammable satellite called Eutelsat Quantum on July 30 2021, on board an Ariane 5 rocket, with the hope of a new era of more flexible communications.

v “Eutelsat Quantum, developed under an ESA partnership project with satellite operator Eutelsat and prime manufacturer Airbus, is the first commercial fully flexible software-defined satellite in the world,” the space agency said in an official release. “Because it can be reprogrammed in orbit, it can respond to changing demands for data transmission and secure communications during its 15-year lifetime. Its beams can be redirected to move in almost real-time to provide information to passengers’ onboard moving ships or planes.”

What is a reprogrammable satellite?

v As the name suggests, a re-programmable satellite allows the user to change the communications as per need, in real time. The traditional models do not have this feature; they are designed and “hard-wired” on Earth. Even while orbiting in a fixed position at 35,000 kilometers above Earth, the satellite can be reprogrammed.

v The Eutelsat Quantum weighs 3.5 tonnes and consists of eight communication beams. Each of the beams can be modified to make changes to the coverage area and its telecommunications signal. As the changes can be done in minutes, this satellite can be done in minutes; this satellite can be used in providing mobile coverage in moving objects successfully. The Eutelsat Quantum will be covering the geographical area from West Africa to Asia in a 15 years period of time.