Advanced Television

Intelsat buying 3D-built mini-satellite

November 8, 2022

By Chris Forrester

Intelsat has ordered a small 12-transponder mini-satellite from Switzerland’s ‘SWISSto12’ manufacturer of its HummingSat craft. It will be Intelsat-45 when launched in 2025.

The HummingSat is one-tenth of the size of a conventional geostationary satellite and contains many parts which will be 3D printed. Measuring only about the size of a washing machine, it will still carry 12 Ku-band transponders and be placed into a normal geostationary orbit. It will weigh about 500 kgs. At the moment there is no precise target for its orbital slot which will be determined close to its launch date.

“The SWISSto12 product brings two innovations to meet our business needs,” said Jean-Luc Froeliger, SVP of Space Systems, Intelsat. “The small size addresses a gap in our fleet strategy, enabling us to be increasingly more targeted to meet specific customer requirements. In addition, the additive-manufacturing process used for this spacecraft is paving the way for faster satellite build cycles in the future. We are confident in the HummingSat technology and want to support the success of new players in the field of commercial communication satellites.”

There are plenty of existing satellite builders which have portions of the craft constructed with ‘additive manufacturing’ components. Airbus, for example, uses 3D additive manufacturing where metal is needed (often titanium) but where the process must cope with extreme temperature variations. The process also saves cash.

HummingSats are just over one cubic meter in volume, about one-tenth the size of conventional satellites placed in geostationary orbit. SWISSto12 is developing the satellites in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) through its public-private-partnership program. Each HummingSat is designed to launch as a rideshare mission on a rocket carrying one or more large spacecraft to GEO transfer orbit. The new satellite product line recently passed its system requirements review, assessed by a panel of ESA experts.

Dr. Emile de Rijk, SWISSto12 founder and CEO, said: “The award of the IS-45 program by Intelsat is a landmark moment for SWISSto12. We are humbled to embark on this journey with Intelsat, who are the foundational architects of satellite communications. It is unprecedented for a specialist high growth scale-up to secure a contract of this depth with a leading telecommunications operator. It provides a solid start to our HummingSat product line to open a new chapter in the satellite communications industry.”

Dr. de Rijk added that the costs will be at least 3 times cheaper than the more traditional orbiting satellites.

SWISSto12 is a leading manufacturer of advanced satellite payloads and systems, including the HummingSat: a small yet powerful geostationary telecommunications satellite. The company’s satellites and payloads benefit from unique and patented 3D printing technologies and associated

Radio Frequency (RF) product designs that deliver lightweight, compact, highly performing, and competitive RF functionality.

Besides its space portfolio, the company is also active in telecommunications, surveillance and radar applications for the aeronautic industry. SWISSto12 has developed commercially with success in Europe, the USA and Israel and is the fastest growing Swiss aerospace company. SWISSto12 spun off in 2011 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), is privately owned and backed by prominent Swiss and European Investors.

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