The space probe took the farthest pictures ever taken at 6.12bn km helped by Thales

Paris, France | March 19, 2018– Thales has been helping to document the final frontier ever since humanity first ventured into space. Thales technologies were there to record Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon, are there to help map out the furthest reaches of the cosmos, and will be there when machines once again roam the surface of Mars. Thales was also present a few months ago, when a spacecraft called New Horizons sent us amazing photographs from 6.12bn kilometers away, farther afield than ever before.

Launched by NASA in 2006, New Horizons is an interplanetary spacecraft whose primary mission was to reach Pluto and to study the Kuiper Belt.

In December 2017, New Horizons trained its digital eyes towards its final destination to take the first photos of the Kuiper Belt. What resulted was both a record breaking moment for space travel and a discovery that could prove ground-breaking in our understanding of the solar system.

New Horizons took several images from a distance of 6.12 billion kilometers from Planet Earth, making it the farthest ever spacecraft to successfully take images and beam them back to us. The images reveal a large object deep inside the Kuiper Belt that could potentially be a full- sized rocky planet.

The photographs taken during New Horizons’ routine calibration, surpass even those taken by the legendary Voyager 1 spacecraft, that sent us a now iconic image of Earth taken from 6.06 billion kilometers away.

Sending a picture of something this distant is only possible with Thales traveling wave tubes and amplifiers. The New Horizons LORRI CCD monochromatic camera (1024×1024 pixels) delivers a 12-bit digital signal. To be transmitted from a satellite to Earth, images like any other digital data (command and control of the satellite for example) are then transformed into a modulated baseband analog signal, which is carried by a microwave signal (X-band in this case). This X-band signal is amplified by the TWTA and then radiated toward Earth through a large antenna dish. Because of the huge satellite-Earth distance, the received signal on Earth is very weak, limiting the transmit data rate to approximately 1 kbit. X-band on-board amplifiers are using TWT (Traveling Wave Tubes) supplied by Thales, 15W each in a dual configuration (amplifiers are also redundant, to have a backup in case of problem). Thales has been the undisputed world leader in RF technologies since the dawn of the Space Age, and today it continues to have an impact on the discovery of the farthest reaches of the solar system.

But beyond the sheer scale of this record that Thales helped to achieve, is the potential for scientific discovery. Ever since Pluto was reclassified from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006, the scientific community has been speculating on the composition of Kuiper Belt objects. Scientists are especially excited by the prospect of finding the so-called Planet 9, a hypothesized world beyond the plutonian orbit – about 75 times farther than Pluto’s distance from the Sun – deep inside the Kuiper Belt. The objects’ existence could shed more light on the formation and early composition of the Solar System and significantly advance our understanding of orbital mechanics and planetary formation. Could one of these objects be the 9th planet? Our brave little explorer New Horizons might just give us the answer soon, with a little help from Thales. The incredible keeps on coming.

Posted by on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 2:42 pm 
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Inmarsat Launches Search For Its Next Generation of ‘Space Pioneers’


London, UK | September 22, 2016– A career in the rapidly expanding space industry is not just about launching and flying spacecraft according to Inmarsat, a world leader in mobile satellite communications. Announcing the company’s search for its next generation of ‘space pioneers’, the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Michele Franci, emphasised that to remain a global leader, Inmarsat is focused on attracting world-class engineering talent.

Inmarsat’s third ‘Technology Development Programme’ (TDP), which was launched today at New Scientist Live in London with British ESA astronaut Tim Peake and graduates from Inmarsat’s second TDP programme, is designed to start the space engineering careers of five STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) graduates.

The winning candidates, selected from UK and European universities, will have the opportunity to undertake a two-year placement with Inmarsat and the offer of a permanent position on the successful completion of the programme.

“We are looking for our next generation of engineers; STEM graduates who can help us pioneer in the rapidly evolving world of mobile satellite communications,” said Michele Franci, CTO of Inmarsat. “In return, we provide the opportunity for the successful candidates to contribute to real space engineering programmes and to establish themselves alongside some of the leading engineers in the field of satellite communications.”

Applications for the 2017-2018 programme were officially opened at New Scientist Live in the presence of Tim Peake and will close on 31st January 2017. The successful applicants will join Inmarsat for their two-year placement in September 2017.

Those who join the programme will have the opportunity to work across a range of specialised teams at Inmarsat, including space system development, system architecture and strategy, service and network engineering, spectrum optimisation, cloud virtualisation and satellite operations. Predominantly based in London ay Inmarsat’s global headquarters, the role also offers opportunities to work in the company’s offices in the US and Europe.

Interested applicants – who will need a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant subject; with engineering highly desired – should visit, where they will find a logic challenge, the solving of which forms the part of the application process. The candidate’s answers, CV and covering letter should be sent to:

First generation Inmarsat TDP graduate

Part of Inmarsat’s first generation of TDP graduates, Guillaume Marrakchi, described his experiences as part of the programme in a new blog.

I was one of the lucky five young graduates who joined the first generation Technology Development Programme (TDP) in 2015.

So far, the TDP has given me the opportunity to work on challenging and fascinating projects at the forefront of space telecommunications, ranging from future space systems engineering to advance predictive traffic modelling simulations.

This was something I could only imagine doing as an aerospace engineering student back in university in Toulouse. Whilst there, I remember reading about the ‘new space era’ and about this thriving thirst for innovation in the space industry, especially in the domain of telecommunications. Now after only a year of rotations within Inmarsat, I definitely see this company as an exciting place to start a career and take an active part in this new era.

Guillaume’s full blog can be found at

Posted by on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 3:00 pm 
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