The Spanish space industry is following with great expectation the work of the Space Council set up on 11 July and chaired by the Commissioner of the Aerospace PERTE, Miguel Belló, the person most responsible for laying the foundations that should support and raise the Spanish Space Agency.
While waiting for the second meeting of the Council to be held at the end of September, the main companies in the ecosystem are maintaining the path laid out in their corporate plans, while at the same time keeping a close eye on opportunities in the domestic and global markets.
International competition is growing by the minute, business expectations are in flux and merger attempts between operators are the order of the day. Faced with such uncertainty, the current key players in the global space sector "may not be the same in two years' time", Intelsat CEO David Wajsgras warned more than 400 senior industry executives at the World Satellite Business Week (WSBW 2022), which has just closed in Paris.
The debates and conferences in the Seine capital were attended by Hispasat's CEO, Miguel Ángel Panduro, who on 14 September received the award for excellence in satellite communications in the regional space operator category. The jury recognised the Spanish company as "one of the largest regional satellite service providers, providing Internet and content in Spanish mainly in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America, and operating a large fleet".
Panduro rushed back to Madrid to be present on the afternoon of 15 September at the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first Spanish commercial and military communications satellite into orbit. Named Hispasat 1A, it was launched into space from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 4 launcher on 11 September 1992, the year of the 5th Centenary of the discovery of America, the Barcelona Olympic Games and the Universal Exhibition in Seville.
The Spanish delegation that attended the inaugural launch was led by the then Prince of Asturias, the current King Felipe VI, accompanied by the Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications, Josep Borrell, now Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
In his speech before the veteran engineer Pedro Pintó -Hispasat's programme director 30 years ago-, and many of those who overcame the obstacles to place Hispasat 1A in the 30º West orbital position, Borrell stressed that "today's world is largely built through satellite communications".
He recalled that Spain established with Hispasat 1A "a bridge with Latin America that we did not have until then" and warned that "it is now at stake whether or not Europe will be a relevant actor in space". Our security and defence "are going to depend on the dominance of space", he concluded.
Europe's third largest operator, Hispasat has already deployed a total of 15 satellites in space, nine of which are still in service. With Red Eléctrica as its majority shareholder since October 2019, the next platform "is already in the oven", said the corporation's president, former housing minister Beatriz Corredor. It is called Amazonas Nexus, of which Miguel Angel Panduro has anticipated that "it will take off next January". It will do so from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 launcher from billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX company.
The 4.5-tonne, electric propulsion vehicle, manufactured in Cannes (France) by Thales Alenia Space with extensive participation of national industry, Amazonas Nexus will occupy the 61º West orbital position, will replace Amazonas 2 -launched in October 2009-, will cover the American continent and Greenland and will increase Hispasat's Ku-band offer aimed at the growing demand from air and maritime transport.
The fact of incorporating a state-of-the-art digital processor (DTP) gives the new device the necessary flexibility to adapt to the evolution of the market, which is why "the US Department of Defence has signed up for its services", confirms Hispasat. Another important contract won by Amazonas Nexus has been signed with Tele Greenland, Greenland's national communications company.
The Spanish satellite will provide broadband transmissions and satellite Internet to all the remote towns and villages in the north and east of this huge island between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, but belonging to Denmark, whose population is less than 60,000.
Recognised by the entire Spanish industry as the driving force in the national sector, Hispasat is aware that outer space is a contested domain and has already taken action. It supports the initiative of the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, the Frenchman Thierry Breton, to build a solid architecture for secure communications and is participating in studies to make a future sovereign, autonomous European satellite constellation a reality, with full guarantees of confidentiality.
This is why he is leading a group of Spanish companies and organisations that has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry out the feasibility phase of Caramuel. It is the first space mission that will be positioned 36,000 kilometres above the Earth's surface to distribute quantum keys. It is based on a high-precision telescope equipped with a photon source capable of photon-to-photon ground delivery, one of the technologies that will make it possible to safeguard communications in the near future.
ESA and the European Union intend to develop Caramuel as a shield against hackers equipped with quantum computers. This is expected to maintain the secrecy of civilian and military government communications, the nerve centres that control critical infrastructures and the information circuits of large industrial corporations.
The companies that form part of the team headed by Hispasat are Alter Technology, the Santander and BBVA banks, Cellnex, Das Photonics, GMV, Indra, Quside, Sener Aeroespacial, Tecnobit, Telefónica and Thales Alenia España. They are joined by institutions such as the National Christological Centre, the CSIC, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, the Instituto de Ciencias Fotónicas, the INTA, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Universidad de Vigo.