“In Europe we have world leaders winning contracts all over the world” (Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space)
TRIBUNA- QuWhat lessons have you learned from this exceptional year for telecommunications satellite orders?
HERVÉ DERREY – Thales Alenia Space had a truly exceptional year in terms of order intake. we have It confirmed our Space Inspire product position in the software-defined geostationary satellite market and our position in the telecommunications space. I specifically wanted to lock in what we call “Tier One”, customers with a global “go to market” and a fleet of satellites that create repeatability. With the exception of Inmarsat, we are selected by all other major operators (Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat).
What are the keys to your success?
First of all, it is necessary to understand that part of the commercial success achieved this year is the result of long-term work. If I take the example of Eutelsat, we are working with their teams on the concept Software Defined Satellite (SDS) for about two years. Before this project was approved by their board, we also worked to make sure they clearly understood the value of our product. This is also the case with Intelsat and SES. After a market assessment, they felt that they had better business conditions with us than with our competitors. That’s what they tell us.
But what was the difference compared to the very strong competition in the telecommunications satellite market?
We have a fully generic and modular product that offers the ability to add additional payload (“hosted payload”). This is one of our very attractive opportunities that allow us to create added value for our customers. This offers them a very favorable total return on investment. It is a defining element in competition. That’s why our customers feel that we understand their needs very well, especially in terms of flexibility.
We have truly mastered the heart of the system, the digital processors. The whole point of these new satellites is to offer flexibility by allocating capacity to where the traffic is, for example moving some of the broadcast traffic to Broadband. All these flexibility needs are also a very important factor in improving the business performance of our customers. In reality, operator traffic is not uniform. It is distributed both geographically and temporally. If we want to get the most out of our satellites, we need to be able to manage this traffic dynamically.
Is it the DNA of Thales, a critical software designer, that allows you to bring this proposition closer to your customers?
Indeed. Today, there is an increasingly important digital aspect, and we must embrace these digital technologies. In particular, these satellites have a piece of hardware that is really key to performing flexibility called a Digital Transparent Processor (DTP). It just so happens that most of our competitors are outsourcing this activity while we are developing it: we are in the sixth generation of DTP. We have really mastered this technology over the years through military projects. The military was the first to require some flexibility. We have come to understand these needs through our discussions with these types of customers.
How long does DTP last?
We would like the DTP generation to last as long as possible due to development costs. On average, we develop a DTP generation every five to six years.
What is your competitive analysis?
Everyone understood that DTP is a key capability. This is the same type of ability that will be even more important for the Zodiacs. At the same time, we see that in the telecommunications space, which is so demanding in terms of innovation and R&D, there are a number of players in this software-defined market that we no longer see. . They didn’t succeed or they didn’t want to follow through. Especially Americans. The only American player available today is Makhar, but it mostly stays in its traditional markets.
In constellation projects (OneWeb, IRIS²…), is TAS ready to draw proposals?
These projects are very ambitious, very interesting and massive. These are all very big projects. I believe that the scope of possibilities in terms of consistency and integration between some of these projects is still quite wide, and there may at least be “synergy” between these projects. We learned a lot while working on the Telesat project. This allowed us to create a very clear system concept and system architecture, as well as mocking out a number of key technologies. We’ve got a strong track record in constellations and the space ecosystem is really aware of that. These are The next generation constellations are real systems and therefore the whole concept of communication between satellites is very important. This is not the case with the first generation OneWeb constellation. It turns out that Iridium Next, we finished it four years agoin terms of system architecture, it’s not too far from what these new constellations are trying to do with the Internet in space.
The European Union wants a very secure constellation. This is possible ?
There will be a number of new features. For example, Thierry Breton wants to be able to integrate quantum technology. We don’t know How will the teams responsible for preparing the call for tenders prioritize these requirements? Are they planned for a later stage or will they require some of these capabilities to be demonstrated early on? We are still waiting for the arbitrageurs that will have to decide between constellation launch speed, performance level, and functional level sought.
… But is quantum technology ready for use so quickly?
It all depends on what we are talking about. Quantum is a vast field. When it comes to space, there are two stages. The first quantum fundamental communication, a reasonably achievable goal. We are not in science fiction. There are also ongoing experiments. We are able to sign projects that demonstrate more than operational solutions. On the other hand, the next step is further away with quantum communication, which will allow two quantum computers to communicate. In the context of the European constellation ISIS², we are talking more about the connection of quantum switches.
ExoMars was approved by the ESA Ministerial Conference. Do you have any additional projects with suppression of the Russians?
ESA actually decided to keep the ExoMars program, which is no longer feasible in its current configuration, especially the lander originally supplied by the Russians. There are still many points to be determined. But our goal is to replace the share of the perimeter covered by the Russians. This was the subject of an agreement within the framework of the ministerial conference between the two countries, Italy and Great Britain. France also contributed to this project.
In space exploration, Europe lags behind the United States, China and other countries that want to start. Don’t you regret giving up this obstacle?
The mass is not mentioned in this matter. We will see what comes out of the working group created by ESA. But to go beyond such topics, of course, a strong political push is needed. This means additional budgets. We do not want such an initiative to come at the expense of others. There is France and Europe there isreal leadership today in a number of areas, especially in satellites. We are good. It would be a shame if the push for manned flights resulted in a reduced air curtain in the rest. The US and China are investing heavily in our areas of excellence. We must stay focused and continue our efforts to maintain our leadership.
What is your view of the European space?
QWhen I came to the sector, I felt that there was a wave of “closures” in the European space in front of the success of SpaceX, which is truly an exceptional company with an exceptional leader. It’s that Europeans are ten years behind, they’re completely behind, we’re all past or “old place” and so on. he is also doing very well in space. We also have world leaders in Europe winning contracts all over the world. This smear campaign by the European space industry really needs to stop.
The French space industry benefits from CNES and ESA support, especially in terms of technology. Is this one of the keys to his success?
Indeed this model works and what it is does It is the key to the success of French industry. This key to success also comes from a long-term vision: we are always ten years ahead of ourselves in terms of technology. This means we need technology roadmaps that allow us to be there at the right time. These technologies must anticipate and then mature. For example, we have to be a little careful not to disrupt this model through new purchase models under France 2030. There is a risk of not being able to finance technological roadmaps with France 2030, because co-investment by industrialists is too high. VSpotentially leading to our question business model. We must collectively be vigilant protect which has a model Europe has made the satellite industry the world leader.