Europe-built robotic arm to launch into space aboard Airbus’ OneSat satellites

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A robotic arm made solely by European manufacturers has passed its qualification review for launch into space on the OneSat range of satellites. 

The robotic deployment and pointing system enables the satellite’s plasma thrusters to be positioned far away from the satellite’s body, optimising consumption of the xenon fuel.

The approval of the system means that OneSat is now fully propelled by European technology. Designed by Airbus in France, the robotic arm was made and qualified by manufacturer Euro Heat Pipes in Belgium.  

The robotic arm will help engineers optimise OneSat’s fuel consumption. Credit: ESA

In addition, Sener from Spain made the rotary actuator, Mécano-ID from France built the booms, and French company Latelec designed the harnesses. The plasma thruster was developed and built by French engine manufacturer Safran.

“The deployment and pointing system promotes European autonomy and constitutes an essential feature of the industrial footprint in Europe of OneSat,” said the ESA in a statement.

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OneSat is a standardised telecommunication satellite being jointly developed by the ESA, the French space agency CNES, the UK Space Agency, and satellite manufacturer Airbus. These types of satellites support radio, TV, and internet connections globally, particularly in remote communities that don’t have access to wired connections.

Unlike earlier satellites, which are designed for defined missions, OneSat will be fully reconfigured while in orbit  — and it can adjust its coverage area, capacity, and frequency “on the fly” to meet evolving mission scenarios. 

Due to their modular design, built mainly using off-the-shelf components, OneSat satellites could enter the market up to 50% quicker than current telecommunications satellites, and for less cost. Therefore, they provide an attractive solution for telecoms companies looking to save money and gain flexibility, says Airbus.  

Several companies have already placed orders for OneSat satellites. These include Inmarsat, Optus, Intelsat, and SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation. According to Airbus, the SKY Perfect order marks the first time a Japanese operator has purchased European satellites.