Alphasat, Europe’s largest and most sophisticated telecommunications satellite, was launched into its planned orbit today from Kourou, French Guiana.
The Ariane 5 ECA rocket, operated by Arianespace, took off at 19:54 GMT, 21:54 CEST and delivered Alphasat into the target geostationary transfer orbit about 28 minutes later.
Alphasat’s signal has been picked up by an Inmarsat ground station in Beijing as expected at 20:38 GMT (22:38 CEST), confirming that the satellite is at the predicted location, powered up and transmitting.
Alphasat is a large telecommunications satellite primarily designed to expand Inmarsat’s existing global mobile network. It was engineered and built by Astrium through a public–private partnership between ESA and Inmarsat.
All the partners were present at Europe’s Spaceport to watch the 6.6‑tonne satellite take off.
ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Magali Vaissiere said: “Alphasat will foster the competitiveness of a European telecommunications operator, Inmarsat, associated with European industry, in a domain where the economic prospects are high.
“We are proud at ESA to have been able to bring together the energies, capabilities and resources in this enterprise.”
ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said: “Alphasat is the successful combination of different partnerships: between ESA and the French national agency, CNES, to develop Alphabus, the satellite’s platform; between two major European companies, Thales Alenia Space and Astrium; and between ESA Member States and Inmarsat.
“The latter is a rewarding public–private partnership where ESA is taking the risk to develop new technologies and Inmarsat is using these technologies to open up a new market. The qualification in orbit of the Alphabus platform and technology demonstrators on board will open doors for many more partnerships in the short-term future.
“It is an excellent example of how ESA is boosting Europe’s competitiveness and growth.”
Alphasat will extend Inmarsat’s global broadband network, covering Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It has a lifetime of 15 years and its solar wings span 40 m.
Its advanced Integrated Processor, a core element of the commercial payload, is able to perform trillions of operations per second, providing unprecedented service flexibility.
Along with providing a significant increase in service for Inmarsat’s fleet, it also serves as a first flight for Alphabus, the new European telecom platform developed by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space under a joint contract with ESA and France’s CNES space agency.
The high-power multipurpose Alphabus platform serves the large-payload market and meets demand for increased broadcasting services. It can accommodate commercial missions with up to 22 kW of payload power and mass of up to two tonnes, and gives European industry a competitive position in the global telecom market.
Alphasat is also carrying four ESA technology demonstration payloads: an environmental and radiation testing sensor from Efacec (Portugal), the Aldo Paraboni Q/V-band experiment from Thales Alenia Space (Italy) and Space Engineering (Italy), a startracker from Jena-Optronik (Germany) and a laser communication terminal from TESAT (Germany), provided by the DLR German Aerospace Center.
About the European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. It is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Den-mark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.
ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
ESA is also working actively with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.
ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.
Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecom-munications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.
For further information:
ESA Media Relations Office
Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99