Antwerp Space selected to develop the Communication Subsystem for Ariel

Antwerp, 28 July 2023 Antwerp Space, a subsidiary of the space and technology group OHB SE, and Airbus Defense and Space signed a contract for the development of the Communication Subsystem for the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (Ariel) mission of the European Space Agency.

Ariel is the fourth medium-class mission in the Cosmic Vision program of the European Space Agency (ESA). This mission will observe hundreds of transiting exoplanets, measuring their chemical composition and thermal structure. This information is seen as crucial in understanding how the physics and chemistry of a planet are linked to the environment in which it is formed and the star around which it is orbiting. At the same time, this information could also support the quest to find out whether there is another planet like Earth somewhere else in the Universe. The mission is scheduled to be launched in 2029.

The Communication Subsystem under development at Antwerp Space ensures the communication link with Earth and enables the spacecraft commandability and observability during the complete four-year nominal mission and possible two-year extension. Ariel will operate at the second Lagrange point (L2) – 1.5 million kilometers from Earth – and this will bring several technical challenges.  “The Ariel Communication Subsystem is a reliable assembly of 6 main units – including transponders, high power amplifiers and antennas – and 35 components with a total mass of 15 kg. The subsystem provides redundant telemetry, tracking and command capabilities at X-band. It transmits an RF power of 10 W and supports data downlink at symbol rates up to 10 Msps.“ says Hugues Vasseur, Lead Engineer for this activity. Antwerp Space will be responsible for the design, development, manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing, verification, and qualification of the Communication Subsystem. The activities will take place at the company’s main site in Hoboken.

Antwerp Space’s heritage and capability in the Communication domain were recently demonstrated in the JUICE Mission for which the company delivered the Communication Subsystem as well. Koen Puimège, Managing Director at Antwerp Space: “The renewed collaboration between ESA, Airbus Defense and Space and Antwerp Space on the Ariel mission is therefore also a token of the reliable reputation that Antwerp Space has built within the industry. This collaboration will continue to strengthen in future missions and leverage the internal developments in Antwerp Space of unique communication equipment, such as the newly developed X-band Transponder.”


“Antwerp Space acknowledges that this activity is part of the Ariel ESA mission and this Contract is carried out and funded by the European Space Agency. The view expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency.”