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The Swiss branch of Thales Alenia will supply the world’s only network of satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) with its technology, specifically the Optical Inter Satellite Links. This will enable the satellites to provide global, fine-scale coverage, including over the oceans and the poles, without compromising security of data communications.


The network is being developed for Telesat, a Canadian satellite services company. Telesat has selected Thales Alenia Space to build its broadband constellation. The network, called Lightspeed, will comprise 298 satellites, each weighing about 700 kilograms. The satellites of the Telesat constellation will deliver multiple terabits per second worldwide for secure, broadband professional services with low latency (extremely fast) and high levels of performance.

The Optical Inter Satellite Links technology is based on Thales Alenia Space’s product line Space Optical Communications, i.e., OPTEL-C. The more compact OPTEL-µ is another optical communications product from this line. This is particularly good for downloading data from small LEO satellites.

Swiss Space Sector

Thales Alenia Space is a French-Italian aerospace manufacturer. It is the largest satellite manufacturer based in Europe. The Swiss branch of Thales Alenia Space was set up five years ago after a business acquisition. In Zurich, they mainly specialize on the development and manufacture of instruments for scientific satellites. But also on optical communication terminals for space applications.

The Swiss space sector is an important segment of the European and international space industry. It features around 100 Swiss companies producing sophisticated products and technologies for space missions and employing around 2,500 people. Furthermore, a European Space Agency (ESA) Business Incubation Centre was opened in the country back in 2016 to help entrepreneurs realize their innovative ideas and transfer technologies from space to earth and from earth to space.

You can also read how about the success of another European collaboration in the field of satellite communications.