The Payload and ProtoMéthée’s Mission: Interview with Olivier Maes COO

La Charge Utile et la Mission de ProtoMéthée : Prométhée Earth Intelligence dans l’espace

The “payload” plays an essential role in the space segment, enabling the satellite to the satellite to fulfill its mission.

But what is a payload, and how does it work? Today, Olivier MAES, COO of Prométhée Earth Intelligence, explains this essential technology.

What is a payload and how does it work? 

The payload, as its name suggests, is the part of a satellite that performs a specific function essential to the success of its mission. Our English-speaking counterparts are even more explicit, translating “charge utile” as “Payload,” literally “the load that pays.” Simply put, the payload is the operational heart of a satellite, enabling it to accomplish its mission.

In opposition to the payload, we find what we call “the bus” or “the platform.” The bus or platform is responsible for providing the resources needed for the payload to function properly, including energy., lhe sensors and actuators used to position the satelliteand communication with Earth.

In the specific case of the ProtoMéthée satellite, its payload takes the form of an imager, a camera capable of capturing high-resolution images of the Earth from orbit.

Speaking of embedded systems, what can we expect from ProtoMéthée? 

ProtoMéthée is a 16U nanosatellite. This means that it takes the form of a cube measuring 20 cm x 20 cm x 40 cm, and uses a technology “Flight proven”, already tried and tested in space.

The key characteristics of this Earth observation mission require ProtoMéthée to be stable, agile and autonomous. Stability is essential for capturing sharp images, just as a photographer avoids fidgeting when shooting. Agility is needed so that the satellite can point its camera in different directions, and not just to trace only under him. Autonomy allows operations to be programmed in advance, while remaining flexible to meet customer needs.

What is the purpose of ProtoMéthée's on-board payload?

The satellite embarks two payloads. The first is a multispectral optical camera capable of capturing images with 1.5-meter resolution in seven different spectral bands. This main payload is at the heart of ProtoMéthée’s mission. At the same time, a secondary payload in the form of a communications beacon will serve as a demonstrator, establishing communications with satellites. the constellation Kineis. This demonstration paves the way for future technologies to be integrated into the Japetus demonstrator.

What communication system will ProtoMéthée use?

ProtoMéthée will use various communication systems to carry out its missions. The “S-band transponders” will be used to control and monitor the satellite from Earth. A second link will be dedicated to sending “image telemetry”, i.e. images acquired by the camera and stored on board. This link will operate in X-band, a centimetric wavelength that enablesto obtain higher datae data flowss and therefore transmit image volumes in excess of one gigabyte.its.

In addition, the The beacon demonstrator will enable ProtoMéthée to communicate with the Kineis constellation, sending data in small packets of 100 bits, equivalent to 12.5 bytes. This experimental approach opens the door to new applications. leading to high reactivity using satellites deployed as part of the Kinéis IoT constellation.

On Japetus, we’ll also have on-board intelligence to analyze images. Bringing this analysis capability d’image analysis closer to theis a real game changer for satellite earth observation satellite observation, opening up new applicationss and dimithe volume of data to be downloaded.

Looking beyond ProtoMéthée, what innovations are on the horizon?

The next chapter is called Japetus. This satellite, developed as part of the CNES/DGE/Next generation EU relaunch plan, will be able to carry larger payloads. largeoffering enhanced image resolution and superior image quality, it will also carry a beacon for inter-satellite communication, integrated artificial intelligence and will be controlled from the sol via a ground segment highly automated to process all the satellitesof the constellation. The contract for the Japetus demonstrator has already been started with Hemeria, for a launch date in 2025.

Once the JAPETUS constellation is deployed, PROMÉTHÉE Earth Intelligence will become the first European operator capable of delivering data and services combining near-real time and hyper-reactivity.

By 2026, we’ll have a sovereign earth observation infrastructure. This will enable us to meet growing needs in terms of environmental and climate intelligence, as well as defense and security, to protect our citizens and territories.