Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), announced on 27 April 2020 the signing of a contract with AVIO S.p.A., industrial prime contractor of the VEGA launch vehicle, in the frame of LEAP program of the European Space Agency (ESA), concerning the initial phases of design, development and qualification of a TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) transmitter, targeting an improvement of VEGA telemetry system both in terms of cost and performance.
The present telemetry system of VEGA relies on the download of the telemetry data streaming directly to the telemetry ground stations, requiring the use of costly mobile ground stations. Sometimes the ground stations are not even sufficient to cover the launch trajectory.
The new VEGA TDRS system is based on the transmission of the telemetry data streaming to TDRS geosynchronous satellites constellation, which then relay the signal to the TDRSS2 ground stations. This system will significantly improve the contact between the ground and the launcher by allowing continuous transmission of the telemetry data streaming all along the launcher trajectory thanks to the TDRSS coverage. The VEGA TDRS system will be compatible with the current launcher version and easily adapted to its evolutions, as the VEGA-C launcher version.
The TDRS transmitter development draws on Thales Alenia Space in Spain comprehensive expertise in the development of telemetry and command systems for all type of space missions in LEO, GEO, the Moon and Langrange L2 orbits. In particular, the company has developed TDRSS-compatible transmitters and receivers for numerous missions in low Earth orbit, including visiting spacecraft to the International Space Station such as Europe’s ATV, Japan’s HTV and USA’s Cygnus. Thales Alenia Space has also valuable experience in the launchers segment and is currently developing in its facilities in Madrid (Spain) the telemetry transmitter for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle.
Thales Alenia Space has contributed to the European launchers industry for more than 50 years. In just a few years, the company has become the key supplier of numerous electronic equipment developed in Belgium for the entire family of Ariane (Ariane 1 to Ariane 6), Vega and Soyuz launchers. Since 2017, Thales Alenia Space in Spain has also been completing the range of Thales Alenia Space-built products dedicated to the European launchers.