Four additional spacecraft for SES’ O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellation were orbited today by a Soyuz launch from French Guiana, supporting a long-time Arianespace customer and underscoring the medium-lift workhorse launcher’s suitability for a full range of missions.
Departing from the Spaceport’s ELS launch complex near the city of Sinnamary, and ascending into clear skies over French Guiana, Soyuz deployed its four passengers during a flight of approximately 2 hrs., 22 min. This included the propulsion of Soyuz’ first three stages, as well as four burns of its Fregat upper stage.
Today’s launch was Soyuz’ 18th from French Guiana since it began service at the Spaceport in 2011, and was designated Flight VS18 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system.
Impressive numbers for the SES/Arianespace relationship
In post-launch comments at the Spaceport, Luce Fabreguettes, Arianespace’s Executive Vice President Missions, Operations & Purchasing, noted that the mission’s payloads are the 54th, 55th, 56th and 57th spacecraft orbited by Arianespace for global satellite operator SES – extending an exceptional partnership that dates back to 1988.
O3b spacecraft are utilized by the SES Networks operation of SES to provide low latency, fiber-like connectivity in the growing mobility, fixed data and government markets. These trapezoidal-shaped Ka-band relay platforms, produced by Thales Alenia Space, have a liftoff mass of 700 kg. each.
Speaking from the Spaceport after the mission’s completion, SES Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell confirmed that ground tracking stations acquired signals from all four satellites lofted by Flight VS18, and thanked Arianespace for the successful launch. “This important mission increases our capacity in Medium Earth Orbit by 38 percent,” he said.
Halliwell noted that SES would be back at the Spaceport in early 2019 with the next four O3b satellites.
Enhancing SES Networks’ services from orbit
The passengers on today’s flight will join the 12 O3b satellites already in orbit, launched by Arianespace using its medium-lift Soyuz workhorse that carries four spacecraft on each launch. The previous missions were performed in June 2013, July 2014 and December 2014. Positioned at approximately 8,000 km., the O3b satellites are some four-times-closer to Earth than geostationary-orbit satellites.
The four newly-launched satellites will enable SES Networks to offer more capacity, enhanced coverage, increased efficiencies and greater reliability while delivering carrier-grade services to telecommunications operators, mobile network operators, enterprises, internet service providers and government customers.
After today’s Flight VS18, Arianespace has five more SES satellites in its backlog, comprising four additional spacecraft for SES Networks’ O3b constellation, and the all-electric SES-17 – to be used by SES for high-speed inflight connectivity and high-powered data services.
Thales Alenia Space-built satellites on Flight VS18
In comments after Flight VS18, Arianespace’s Luce Fabreguettes also offered her congratulations to Thales Alenia Space, another long-time partner that produced the four O3b spacecraft lofted on today’s Soyuz mission. “With 154 Thales Alenia Space produced satellites orbited since 1981 by Arianespace, and 11 more in our backlog, we will certainly continue to partner for many common successes,” she added.
Patrick Mauté, Thales Alenia Space’s Chief Technical Officer, said the Soyuz launcher “operated like clockwork – perfectly,” and complemented the launch teams’ “skills, competency, and great talent,” adding they were the keys to today’s successful launch.
Flight VS18 was Arianespace’s second mission in 2018 with a member of its complete launcher family – which also includes the heavyweight Ariane 5 and light-lift Vega. It continues a busy year of activity for Arianespace, which has identified a total of 14 launch opportunities from the Spaceport.
Arianespace’s next mission is Flight VA242 with an Ariane 5, which will carry a dual-payload to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) that includes the HYLAS 4 satellite for Avanti.
Date: Mar 12, 2018