Antwerp Space selected to develop the communications subsystem for Ariel

Source: OHB/Antwerp Space

Antwerp Space, a subsidiary of the space and technology group OHB SE, and Airbus Defence and Space signed a contract for the development of the communications subsystem for the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (Ariel) mission of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Ariel is the fourth medium-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme. This mission will observe hundreds of transiting exoplanets, measuring their chemical composition and thermal structure. This information is seen as crucial in understanding how the physics and chemistry of a planet are linked to the environment in which it is formed and the star around which it is orbiting. At the same time, this information could also support the quest to find out whether there is another planet like Earth somewhere else in the universe. The mission is scheduled to be launched in 2029.

 

 

The communications subsystem under development at Antwerp Space ensures the communication link with Earth and enables the spacecraft commandability and observability during the complete four-year nominal mission and possible two-year extension. Ariel will operate at the second Lagrange point (L2) – 1.5 million kilometres from Earth – which poses several technical challenges. “The Ariel communications subsystem is a reliable assembly of six main units – including transponders, high power amplifiers and antennas – and 35 components with a total mass of 15 kg. The subsystem provides redundant X-band telemetry, tracking and command capabilities. It transmits an RF power of 10 W and supports data downlink at symbol rates up to 10 Msps.“ says Hugues Vasseur, Lead Engineer for this activity. Antwerp Space will be responsible for the design, development, manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing, verification, and qualification of the communications subsystem. The activities will take place at the company’s main site in Antwerp, Belgium.

 

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Antwerp Space’s heritage and capability in the communications domain were recently demonstrated in the JUICE mission for which the company also delivered the communications subsystem. Koen Puimège, Managing Director at Antwerp Space: “The renewed collaboration between ESA, Airbus Defence and Space and Antwerp Space on the Ariel mission is therefore also a token of the reliable reputation that Antwerp Space has built within the industry. This collaboration will grow even stronger in future missions and leverage our internal developments of unique communications equipment, such as the newly developed X-band transponder.”

 

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