State-owned telecom company to launch satellite in 3 years

Exatel, the Polish state-owned telecommunication and cybersecurity company is keen to put Poland’s first official satellite in orbit.

“In about three years, we want to launch a satellite designed by us and other Polish companies,” Deputy Head of Exatel Rafał Magryś told the Polish Press Agency (PAP), adding that the goals of the project go beyond the commercial and tap into the development of the Polish space sector.

Mr Magryś sees that the time for such a venture is ripe as the global space market is developing dynamically, technologies become cheaper and increasingly accessible. “A revolution of a sort takes place and one that can be compared to the proliferation of PCs. Meanwhile, Poland still does not have its own satellite, unlike most other countries, despite having several dozen entities active on the market. These entities, however, usually operate as subcontractors of international companies,” said the deputy Exatel head.

Besides optical fibre networks, “the designing of satellite connectivity” is one of Exatel’s activities. Mr Magryś specified that satellites were providing “back-up connectivity that would not replace optical fibres. It ensures and provides safe communication to, among others, Polish diplomatic posts all over the world and the military.”

But the pros of having a state-owned satellite in the Earth’s orbit also include providing an impulse to Polish companies active in the space sector. “When we talked with our US partners, they were surprised that a country which enjoys such a large number of specialists has not launched a satellite of its own yet,” Mr Magryś says, adding that “we want to rely on Polish private companies and institutions such as the Łukasiewicz Research Network in order to create an ecosystem of companies that will be collaborating with us. We have no ambitions to design everything ourselves. We will deal with connectivity and encryption. The construction of an engine and solar batteries, that’s something we would commission our partners to do.”

The Łukasiewicz Research Network is a unique project of great commercial potential. We are an integrated market player providing attractive, comprehensive and competitive business solutions in the fields of automation, chemicals, biomedicine, ICT, materials, and advanced manufacturing. With 8,000 staff and 35 research institutes located in 11 cities across Poland, the organisation is the third-largest research network in Europe.

The realistic approach of small steps

Mr Magryś goes on to stress Exatel’s experience and the upper hand of having its own antennas, experts and competencies at its disposal. Nevertheless, the deputy head says “we are realists. For starters, we are not aiming for the most expensive telecommunications satellites. We endorse the small steps paradigm. We want to start with small satellites that can be easily produced using 3D-print technology for the matter. The experiences and incomes from the project will help design larger devices. Our initial budget calculations show that all of this will fall into place commercially.”

Exatel’s deputy head stresses that the enterprise is not at risk of being carried out the “cottage industry-way”, as “Polish companies demonstrate global standards.” “With respect to some queries, we are on the very top, for instance, in terms of the technology of quantum cryptography.”

Among its potential customers, the Exatel names Poland’s MFA, state agencies, including the Agency for Restructuring and Modernisation of Agriculture (ARiMR), and commercial clients.

Mr Magryś also feels that the influence of the pandemic on the success of the undertaking would be minor. “Delays may occur but I am doubtful as to their negative influence on the demand for the services [that a Polish satellite could provide]. Quite to the contrary, the need to cut costs could increase the interest in new technologies. Satellite photos help reduce spendings, for instance, in agriculture… After all, coronavirus and the disruption of global supply chains showed how important it is to invest in technologies locally and to build local industries and local competitive centres.“

The announcement follows Wednesday’s appointment of a new Defence Ministry plenipotentiary for the matters of space. Colonel Marcin Górka was tasked with preparing a ministerial strategy on space, which “is to carry out the NATO plans as it has recognised space as its new field of activity. The plenipotentiary’s tasks are to implement the Polish Space Strategy and executive documents,” the ministry informed on Twitter.