Friday, December 19, 2014

Soyuz Rocket Orbits Four Communication Satellites for O3b Networks

Arianespace’s workhorse Soyuz is shown lifting off from the Spaceport’s ELS launch facility during the daytime launch with four more connectivity satellites for O3b Networks. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

Arianespace has orbited four new satellites in the O3b constellation. A Soyuz ST-B rocket, carrying four European communication satellites satellites on board, took off from the Kourou space center in French Guiana on Thursday at 3:37 pm local time and all four satellites were put into orbit. The 2-hr., 22-min. flight began with the propulsion of Soyuz’ basic three-stage launch vehicle, and was followed by multiple burns of its Fregat upper stage. O3b Networks’ four satellites were released in two phases from a dispenser system atop the Fregat stage. “We are so excited to be able to bring such a significant increase in capacity and capability just a few short months after our last launch," said O3b CEO, Steve Collar. "Our new satellites will allow our customers to connect digitally disadvantaged populations, enabling online education, e-commerce, telemedicine and cloud based services, to transform businesses, communities and lives."

With this launch Arianespace continues to deploy the O3b satellite constellation into an equatorial circular orbit, to provide high-speed, low-cost, low-latency Internet access to emerging markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East. The coverage zone includes nearly 180 countries and the "Other 3 billion" (O3b) inhabitants of the planet who do not yet enjoy broadband Internet connectivity.

By adding these new satellites, the O3b constellation can increase capacity to address rising demand. O3b Networks started full commercial service on September 1, 2014.



"I would like to express my warm thanks to O3b Networks for once again placing their trust in Arianespace, so they can develop their offering of innovative telecommunications services in emerging markets," said Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace. "We are very proud of our role in continuing to support the growth of our customer O3b, following the start of commercial service on September 1st. We share with them a core commitment to bringing the benefits of space down to people on Earth."

This launch success – which had a total payload lift performance of more than 3,180 kg. – continues the strong partnership between Arianespace and O3b Networks. It follows Arianespace Soyuz missions in July 2014 and June 2013 that orbited the customer’s first eight spacecraft in batches of four each – enabling O3b Networks to become fully operational.

Today’s success was of particular significance for Arianespace, as the four spacecraft lofted by Soyuz today surpassed the 500-satellite-launched milestone since the company’s creation in 1980.

Arianespace and its partners lit up Kourou for a second time after the successful Soyuz Flight VS10 – with a cake celebrating the company’s 500th satellite launched since its creation.

Top-level management from Arianespace, O3b Networks and Thales Alenia Space celebrate Arianespace’s 500th satellite orbited with a cake to highlight the milestone. Pictured from left to right are: Jean-Loïc Galle, CEO of Thales Alenia Space; John Dick, Chairman and Director of O3b Networks; Steve Collar, CEO of O3b Networks; and Stéphane Israël, Arianespace’s Chairman and CEO. Credit: Arianespace
Top-level management from Arianespace, O3b Networks and Thales Alenia Space celebrate Arianespace’s 500th satellite orbited with a cake to highlight the milestone. Pictured from left to right are: Jean-Loïc Galle, CEO of Thales Alenia Space; John Dick, Chairman and Director of O3b Networks; Steve Collar, CEO of O3b Networks; and Stéphane Israël, Arianespace’s Chairman and CEO. Credit: Arianespace

Decorated with “Happy 500+ with O3b!,” the cake marked a milestone that was surpassed during Soyuz’ deployment of four O3b Networks’ spacecraft, which brought the total number of satellites orbited by Arianespace to 502.

Over the past 12 months, Arianespace carried out 11 launches and orbited 23 satellites from the Spaceport using 6 heavy-lift Ariane 5s, 4 Soyuz and one Vega light-lift vehicle – a new milestone since the introduction of this full launcher family at French Guiana.

Individual records broken during this activity included the largest payload mass delivered to geostationary transfer orbit (10.3 metric tons on Ariane 5’s February 6 mission with ABS-2 and Athena-Fidus); the heaviest payload ever launched by Europe (ATV Georges Lemaître, lofted by Ariane 5 on July 29); and a new cumulative payload lift performance for a single year (75 tons). 

Arianespace’s workhorse Soyuz is shown lifting off from the Spaceport’s ELS launch facility during the daytime launch with four more connectivity satellites for O3b Networks. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace
Arianespace’s workhorse Soyuz is shown lifting off from the Spaceport’s ELS launch facility during the daytime launch with four more connectivity satellites for O3b Networks. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

Thursday's launch marks the resumption of Soyuz launches from the Guiana Space Center, four months after an orbital injection anomaly occurred on the previous Soyuz mission. The European independent Inquiry Board named by Arianespace and the Russian Inquiry Board named by Russian space agency Roscosmos, submitted converging conclusions concerning the cause of this anomaly. Both boards issued a series of recommendations, which were implemented to ensure a fast, secure resumption of launches.

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