The Spanish technology company GMV has just signed a contract with Yahsat, the main communications operator of the Union of Arab Emirates, to develop and provide it with the control and operations centre for its new generation of Thuraya 4 NGS satellites.
Considered the world's leading independent satellite control system developer, GMV's commitment is to supply Al Yah Satellite Communications Company - better known as Yahsat - with all the necessary equipment to supervise the correct positioning in space of what will be its sixth communications platform, Thuraya 4 NGS, scheduled to go into orbit in 2024.
The replacement for Thuraya 2 launched in June 2003, Thuraya 4 NGS is a new-generation L-band satellite designed to expand Yahsat's mobile service offering and bring greater performance and flexibility to the broadband coverage it provides over Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.
Miguel Ángel Molina, head of Business Development and Strategy of the Ground Segment and Operations of GMV's space branch, is the architect of the successful outcome of the project for both parties. The contract that has just been signed means "consolidating Yahsat's confidence in GMV and our company's position in the Middle East satellite market", says the veteran executive of the Spanish company.
For decades as head of GMV's space product marketing team, Miguel Ángel Molina has been in charge of finalising the details of the contract, which "took more than a year to negotiate". As it took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, contacts with Yahsat "were maintained virtually by teleconference", he confirms.
The operator Yahsat currently has a fleet of five satellites. It provides fixed, mobile and secure communications services in more than 150 countries in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and Australasia, so its customer potential reaches more than 80% of the world's population.
Owned by the state-owned Mubadala Investment Company, Yahsat provides C-, Ku-, Ka- and L-band solutions for terrestrial, maritime and airborne platforms to public and private sector organisations and individual users.
The recently awarded assignment is a further endorsement of GMV's technology's presence on the world stage. This is confirmed by Jorge Potti, GMV's general manager of Space, for whom the signing of the new contract "reaffirms the company's leading position worldwide".
Yahsat is already one of the Spanish company's reference clients. The Emirates operator uses GMV's flight dynamics and mission planning systems for the control of its communications satellites Al Yah 1, 2 and 3. The good performance of the Spanish systems has been one of the crucial aspects taken into account by Yahsat's deputy technical director, Adnan Al Muhairi.
The choice of GMV was based on "the good management of the Al Yah family of satellites and GMV's excellent track record in providing support", said Adnan Al Muhairi, justifying the confidence placed in the Spanish company for its flagship Thuraya 4-NGS programme.
From now on and over the next 12 months, GMV's technicians will be working in Abu Dhabi on the gradual commissioning of the control centre and on the installation and its equipment, which enjoys international prestige for excellence in spacecraft control.
One of these is Flyplan, which can automatically execute operations on hundreds of satellites. It is already being used by the operator OneWeb, which has around 150 satellites in orbit. Another is Hifly, which performs real-time processing of telemetry and telecommand.
A third is FocusSuite, which automatically determines the precise position of each satellite in orbit at all times, as well as calculating the manoeuvres necessary to keep it in its pre-established operational position. GMV will also be responsible for the maintenance of the centre and the training of the emirati technicians.
With a launch weight of around 5.1 tons, the Thuraya 4 NGS has been under construction since 2020 by the European manufacturer Airbus Space Systems on the basis of a Eurostar Neo platform. Although very different in performance, its external appearance is similar to the Spainsat NGs contracted by the Spanish operator Hisdesat, which are designed to provide secure strategic communications to the Spanish government and armed forces.
A privately owned Spanish technology group founded in 1984, GMV started out in the space sector but has expanded its activities to the fields of aeronautics, defence and security, cybersecurity, intelligent transport systems, automotive, healthcare, telecommunications and information technologies.
With revenues of around 260 million euros in 2020, 75% of its turnover comes from international projects on five continents, the company says. It has subsidiaries in Germany, Colombia, the United States, France, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Romania and the Netherlands, and a workforce of more than 2,300 professionals. Since its inception, it has followed a growth strategy based on continuous innovation, dedicating 10% of its turnover to R&D&I projects.