For two years now, Thales Alenia Space (TAS) has superformed the market. After an exceptional year in 2021, the Cannes-based satellite manufacturer continued its very good trajectory in 2022, but without matching 2021 in terms of order intake. New successes in the commercial field were achieved thanks to the new product line ” Inspire Space » developed by TAS and currently very attractive for satellite operators, in particular leaders with access to the world market (SES, Intelsat, Eutelsat, etc.)
” If we consider the total of the last two years in the commercial market, we have a market share of over 50%. Which is historically very high for Thales Alenia Space. 2022 is a key year: we are pleased to confirm Space Inspire’s place in the geostationary satellite market software defined and our place in the field of telecommunications »analyzes the CEO of TAS, Hervé Derrey in an interview with La Tribune.
The year 2022 would be a harvest equivalent to that of 2021 in terms of revenue. “It will not be as exceptional a year as 2021, but it will be a very good vintage”underlines the CEO of TAS, who did not want to give figures. This is due to the progress of projects at the institutional level (CNES and ESA), which are advancing in phases. In 2022, TAS still saw nine of its satellites launch, including the last SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 on December 16 from the Vandenberg military launch base in California.
Geostationary satellites: a year of madness
Last year, TAS received six new satellite orders (SES 24, Intelsat 41 and 44, Arabsat 7A, Koreasat 6A and Eutelsat FlexSat). That is, orders exceeding 100 million euros at a time. Better than in 2021, when the French-Italian manufacturer won five satellites (Sicral 3A and 3B, Telkom HTS 113 BT, Astra 1P, Astra 1Q for SES), including two on behalf of the Italian State (Sicral). In 2022, the Franco-Italian manufacturer thus won six commercial satellites out of the eight competitions open internationally and in which it participated. Furthermore, he signed an amendment to the contract for the development of the Sicral 3 telecommunications system with the Italian Ministry of Defenseand, including the associated land segment (contract also in excess of 100 million euros).
” The market telecommunications are so demanding in terms of innovation and research and development (R&D) that there are a certain number of players that we no longer see so much in this market. They were unsuccessful or unwilling to follow. This is particularly the case for Americans. Finally, the only American player really present today is Maxar in its traditional markets. We still don’t see Americans in the software-defined market »explains Hervé Derrey.
It was at the end of November that TAS lost a competition to Maxar. The American manufacturer signed a contract with Sirius XM for the delivery of two satellites with specific missions SXM-11 and SXM-12 (broadcasting). Unlike the Maxar, the TAS had to develop a specific payload, which made it much less competitive than its American rival, despite Sirius XM’s initial desire to diversify its supply sources.
In addition, the tricolor manufacturer did not participate in two other competitions: either for strategic reasons (Intelsat 45), or for geopolitical reasons (satellite Express-AMU4 for the operator Russian Satellite Communication Company won in July by ISS-Reshetnev). TAS, which for a long time before the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a supplier of payloads for the RSCC telecommunications satellites in partnership with ISS-Reshetnev, no longer has access to this market. Intelsat 45 was won in early November by the Swiss equipment manufacturer SWISSto12, which developed a geostationary mini-satellite with the innovative HummingSat product. “ It is a market in which we decided not to position ourselves because we consider it to be a niche market. ”, says Hervé Derrey.
In addition, the Indonesian company Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) last March ordered the Nusantara Lima satellite from the Boeing counter, which will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 in 2023. This satellite, which aims to provide a capacity of 160 gigabits per second ( Gbps) in the Indonesian archipelago and neighboring countries, will increase the capacity of the SATRIA-1 satellite that Thales Alenia Space is building for launch in 2023. Only Boeing could fulfill this urgent request from PSN, supplying it with a -shelf satellite.
Finally, in addition to the telecommunications satellite market, Thales Alenia Space has won a contract in a promising commercial market, the SpaceGate network access satellite solution, which will provide broadband connectivity with optimal efficiency in order to significantly increase performance. of the terrestrial segment and terminals of the Eutelsat Konnect VHTS satellite. This solution has “the potential” to be adapted to other satellites of the European operator, perhaps Eutelsat 10B. Furthermore, this solution offers an interest to “all the somewhat sovereign capabilities that Europe would like to acquire because at this stage there is no European solution in this area”believes Hervé Derrey.
Space exploration: TAS successes
TAS, which is a key player in space exploration in Europe, whose activities are based in Turin, Italy, strongly believes in the development of a commercial market. After signing a contract for the development of two pressurized modules for the Axiom space station in 2021, the French-Italian group signed a contract at the end of last year for the first phase of the design and production of the vehicle. “REV1”the first floating factory in space, as well as the opening of a Space Cargo Unlimited subsidiary in Turin. “We plan to develop a spacecraft based on the Space Rider, but with slightly different characteristics. The goal is to have a little more payload compared to Space Rider and also have a slightly more competitive recurring cost.”stresses the CEO of TAS.
“Our experience developed in Turin is such that other players, who are positioning themselves in this market, all come to us to ask us to participate in the project of their private station”underlines the head of TAS, who will deliver a first module of the Axiom station in 2024 and the next one in 2025. ” In Turin, TAS benefits from staff ultra-competent in this area and that have market recognition for this expertise. Including from NASA, whose teams have enormous respect for the technical skills of Turin, whose location worked on the International Space Station ».
At an institutional level, the Ministerial Conference of Member States of the European Space Agency (ESA), held at the end of November, confirmed the financing of the first two flights of the European Space Rider re-entry system. This next-generation automated and reusable vehicle will provide Europe with the unique ability to regularly access and return from low Earth orbit to carry out a wide range of missions. TAS also obtained new phases of the programs in which the group participates, in particular the Lunar Portal.
In addition, TAS has signed a contract with ArianeGroup for the production of the backup chain for the Ariane 6. The main function of this backup chain is to neutralize the launcher in case the trajectory followed endangers people or property. The electronic boxes, which form the heart of the system, are entirely designed and produced by Thales Alenia Space in Belgium.
Earth Observation: A very mixed year
In the field of dual Earth observation (military and civilian), TAS had a mixed year, not to say blank in terms of export orders. If Airbus was selected at the end of the year by Poland, which will acquire two Pleiades NEO-type spy satellites, TAS came to nothing. However, Hervé Derrey notes that “Commercial activity is much more intense than in recent years”.
“It is very likely that the trigger is the war in Ukraine. It reveals that space-based intelligence is absolutely fundamental. There are, therefore, currently tenders, we are discussing with a certain number of countries that intend to acquire this type of capacity, always with two types of needs, high resolution needs and revisit needs. “, analyzes.
However, not everything was imperfect in the field of Earth observation. TAS accounted for the second installment of the Copernicus programs (CHIME, CRISTAL and C02M). In addition, TAS has positioned itself on future technologies. In cooperation with the British group QinetiQ, they signed a study contract with the ESA on the feasibility of multimission nanosatellites in very low Earth orbit (VLEO – Very Low Earth Orbit). This study phase (A/B1) aims to mature the Skimsat demonstrator project, a multimission satellite in very low Earth orbit (> 300 km), which aims to significantly reduce the cost of Earth observation, while increasing the performance through significantly lower operating altitudes.
Finally, in the area of navigation, TAS signed a contract with the European Union Space Program Agency (EUSPA) for the development, qualification and implementation of the new version of EGNOS. For TAS, this is a year to mark with a milestone in terms of order taking.