Syrlinks develops and manufactures radio communication and geolocation products for the space, defence, security and time-frequency markets. Created in 2011 at Cesson-Sévigné in Rennes, the company employs about 100 people, a workforce boosted in 2019 by a further 20 people. With more than 60 engineers and technicians involved in its R&D activities, the company banks on innovation to grow, including optimising the footprint and energy consumption of its products to facilitate their deployment in harsh environments. Its know-how is also based on its expertise in COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) components adapted to complex environments.
Global reputation through sizeable projects
For its first space contract, Syrlinks has been involved in the development of the CNES Myriade Evolutions platform for Earth observation missions. The company has also gained a reputation thanks to the Rosetta space mission aimed at exploring the Churi comet, where its radio communication equipment connected the Rosetta spacecraft to the Philae lander.
The company has expanded at the same time in the defence sector by designing precise radio frequency signal detection and geolocation systems. This equipment is intended to protect sensitive civilian and military sites. Since its inception, the company has been working with the DGA (Directorate General of Armaments) to meet the needs of the French armed forces.
Syrlinks is also involved in security. The company manufactures miniature modules and beacons mainly used for tracking and distress. One of its great successes is its partnership with the watch brand Breitling, equipping its Emergency II watch with an alert and geolocation system: a technological feat in terms of miniaturisation. In 2017, the company began marketing distress beacons at sea that can be integrated into lifejackets. Syrlinks now wants to diversify and reach the general public. The company’s new goal is to democratise its security products with its new SIMY brand.
In 2018, Syrlinks achieved a turnover of €11M, including 45% for export sales, mainly to the United States, which accounts for 25% of its business. The company wants to strengthen its US position and plans to establish itself there shortly.
Space, growth driver
Space accounts for 60% of the Syrlinks business, with the rest divided equally between defence and security, and its share is expected to grow further in the future. To expand this market, Syrlinks established itself last May in Toulouse in the heart of the Aerospace Valley, a major European industrial hub for aeronautics and space. The aim is to get closer to key customers in France – CNES, Airbus Defence and Space, Thales Alenia Space and Hemeria – and also to forge new partnerships with locally-established industrialists. This new site in Toulouse will be dedicated entirely to the development of the space business. For Syrlinks aims to become one of the world’s leading companies in the space sector for the supply of radio communication equipment on board small satellites. In 2019, its involvement in two micro- and nano-satellite projects gave it a new dimension.
Airbus and OneWeb have teamed up to create the joint venture Airbus OneWeb Satellites with the aim of creating a mega-constellation composed of several hundred microsatellites, with global Internet coverage projected by 2022.
These microsatellites will operate in low orbit, between 500 and 1,200 kilometres above sea level. This offers a double advantage: fast Internet connection (up to 400 MB a second) and good value. The challenge is to mass produce at competitive cost.
Syrlinks won this contract to produce more than 3,000 radio frequency units that are essential to the operation of this constellation. It involves a transmitter-receiver to control the satellite from the ground infrastructure and a low noise amplifier at the input to the GPS receiver. The whole thing forms a kind of umbilical cord to control the device and make it communicate with the Earth. To meet the challenge of mass-producing ultra-reliable complex space equipment at reasonable cost, Syrlinks has redesigned the development, production and testing methods commonly used in the space sector, using efforts in the automotive industry as a model, whilst maintaining a level of quality and reliability identical to the older generations of satellites. In response to this exceptional order, Syrlinks has recruited some 20 highly-qualified engineers and built new premises to accommodate a production unit with very specific equipment, including a clean room. Last February, the first six satellites in the OneWeb constellation were put into orbit successfully, thanks in part to the equipment designed by Syrlinks for the control of satellites.
Syrlinks is now well equipped to meet the challenges of NewSpace. The company will also use its new laboratory instruments and production tools to supply Thales Alenia Space with on-board instruments in future nano-satellites in the Kinéis constellation. The twenty Kinéis nano-satellites will give it the first European constellation of nano-satellites for the IoT and thus the facility to propose a global satellite location and connectivity service that is simple to use and very affordable, aimed at professionals as well as the general public, in order to meet the growing needs of tracking goods and people. Syrlinks will contribute to the design and supply of payloads for use in repatriating data transmitted from beacons to satellites and then to ground stations. Component miniaturisation means that this instrument only weighs 2 kg and performs the same functions as the previous 18 kg system. This new programme allows Syrlinks to expand the range of its space radio communications products with more advanced functions.