As the largest space company in Europe and an integral part of the £14.8 billion UK space sector, we design and manufacture advanced satellites to deliver solutions on the ground from climate change monitoring to global communications. Through the European Space Agency we lead international missions from the ExoMars rover which is set to autonomously navigate on the red planet to enabling scientists to get a closer look at our Sun than ever before with the Solar Orbiter.
ExoMars rover being tested in the Stevenage Mars yard
Airbus designs and manufactures approximately 25% of the world’s telecommunications satellites to ensure people stay connected. At Airbus UK we make the structure and propulsion systems, as well as the heart of the satellites, the payloads including our world leading digital processed payloads.
Geostationary telecommunication satellites can weigh up to 6 tonnes, and are used for everything from direct to home TV broadcasting to business to business communications as well as providing satellite communications on the move for armed forces personnel. The majority of satellite TV broadcasts across the UK are from Airbus-built satellites.
Airbus’ Earth observation satellites give the world eyes in space, and we have produced many of the planet’s most sophisticated spacecraft of this kind. One example is the European Space Agency’s (ESA) wind sensing satellite Aeolus, which we built in Stevenage. Aeolus is the first satellite to measure winds on a global scale from the ground to the stratosphere (30km) and has not only increased global wind monitoring but it has been vital in delivering wind measurements to metrological organisations during the COVID crisis as they usually rely on weather data collected in flight by aircraft.
We also conceived and produced the pollution monitoring satellite Sentinel 5P in the UK. Its data is helping scientists monitor pollution levels around the world.
Airbus in Portsmouth is a recognised world leader in radar design and manufacture having built the instrument for the NovaSAR Earth observation satellite launched in 2018. Radar satellites have a unique capability to capture imagery day or night and through clouds, enabling areas of interest to be closely monitored.
Development work on the forest measuring Biomass satellite that will protect these vital resources is also underway at Airbus in Stevenage.
Airbus has been providing satellite imagery services, geo-intelligence data and imagery on demand for over 30 years to enable better decision making. It uses its own unique fleet of optical and radar satellites to provide up to date data to users across the globe like utility companies, insurance professionals and governments: our data helps them provide solutions for people on the ground.
ESA's wind sensing satellite Aeolus under construction in Stevenage
We are proud to have led the development of Europe’s first interplanetary rover vehicle, ExoMars, here in the UK. The ESA mission vehicle, which is due to launch in 2022 was designed and built at Airbus in Stevenage. Our engineers developed autonomous navigation capabilities for the rover, named Rosalind Franklin, to enable it to move more quickly between sites when it lands on the Red Planet.
We designed and built the flagship ESA mission Solar Orbiter which was launched in February 2020. Solar Orbiter has already provided stunning images of the Sun and during its 10 year life it will be the closest camera ever sent to the sun as well as the first spacecraft to orbit the Sun at the same speed as its gravitational rotation providing valuable data on the workings of our nearest star. The scientific mission LISA Pathfinder designed to test the concept of gravitational wave detection – which test Einstein’s theories and further understanding of the Big Bang – was also built by Airbus in the UK.
At Airbus we believe in the importance of sustainable space and were one of the first companies to successfully test technologies in-orbit to clear out space junk. The active debris removal programme RemoveDEBRIS featured a revolutionary space harpoon designed and built by Airbus in Stevenage.
Airbus in the UK has leading expertise in navigation payload and ground segment systems and software. The ground control system for Galileo was designed in the UK, and all the navigation payloads for Galileo built so far were done by the Airbus subsidiary, SSTL.
Airbus is relied upon by the UK armed forces to ensure they remain connected wherever they are in the world. We own and operate the UK’s military satellite communications fleet Skynet 5 through a unique partnership with the MoD. This provides the country’s armed forces with secure global military satellite communications capability for mobile voice, video, internet and broadcast communications – including providing a vital link with their families and friends while on operations. Skynet 5 services are also offered to military and government users beyond the UK, including NATO, and the programme has generated more than £1 billion in export revenue. In short, Airbus in the UK is recognised as a trusted UK provider of military space capability.
The four Skynet 5 secure military satellites were designed and manufactured in Portsmouth and Stevenage
Airbus Space and Defence currently works with over 500 SMEs from every corner of the UK, combining their offering with our capabilities to challenge what’s possible.
Airbus spends £384m within the UK space industry supply chain, of which £92m goes to SMEs. We’re proud that our open minded, open-for-business approach is supporting the industry leaders of the future.