HummingSat passes Systems Review milestone with ESA


An innovative small-sized satellite product line for geostationary telecommunications has passed its ESA system requirements review and received its official name of “HummingSat”.

The slimline satellites – named after the tiny, agile, fast-moving and yet apparently stationary hummingbird – are being developed under a Partnership Project between ESA and SWISSto12, an innovative company based in Renens, Switzerland.

The work forms part of ESA’s efforts to support fast, dynamic and agile private space firms to foster innovation and promote the competitiveness of the European space industry.

The new satellite product line has just passed its system requirements review, assessed by a panel of ESA senior engineers and experts. This first major programme milestone was subsequently declared as successful by a management board composed of ESA and SWISSto12 representatives.

The HummingSats are just over one cubic metre in volume, which is one-tenth the size of conventional satellites placed in geostationary orbit some 36 000 kilometres above Earth.

Because they are small and lightweight, HummingSats are much more affordable to build and launch, enabling satellite operators to provide bespoke regional or gap-filling services that would not be financially viable using large satellites. HummingSats can also offer a competitive replacement option for certain legacy geostationary satellites that have reached the end of their lifetime.

SWISSto12 is leading a consortium of European companies with established space technology and heritage. The HummingSat Partnership Project is a showcase for innovation and disruptive solutions introduced through ESA working hand-in-hand with industry. ESA shares the development risks whereas the private partner assumes the commercial risk.

With this partnership approach, challenging projects such as HummingSat become viable for the commercial market and offer an opportunity for high returns on investment to industry and participating states.

The first commercial satellite operator to order a HummingSat will be announced soon.

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “I am proud to support fast, dynamic and agile private space firms in Europe to bring innovation directly and rapidly to market, which boosts the competitiveness of the European space industry and creates jobs and prosperity on Earth. This initiative forms part of ESA’s Agenda 2025 to boost commercialisation in the European space industry through fast innovation.”

Emile de Rijk, CEO & founder of SWISSto12 said: “The successful completion of this first major milestone in partnership with ESA on the HummingSat is a great collaboration achievement between SWISSto12 and ESA and shows that we are on track for an efficient and on quality progress of the HummingSat design and development. We look forward to announcing soon the first commercial end customer and mission that will fly the HummingSat in GEO.”