Arianespace To Launch Four Internet Communications Satellites From French Guiana
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Four satellites that are to be lifted in space aboard a Soyuz medium-lift ST-B rocket received final clearance for a Monday launch from the Kourou launch facility in French Guiana. The launch, scheduled for 2:53 p.m. EDT (3:53 p.m. local time), will send four communications satellites into orbit for O3b Networks.
The “go” status for today’s launch of Soyuz and its payload was confirmed on Sunday after a launch readiness review gave an all-clear. The mission has been designated Flight VS05 by Arianespace as part of the numbering system it uses for this particular family of rockets; this will be the fifth launch from the space center. Payload lift performance for the Soyuz rocket is roughly 7,063 pounds, with the four satellites weighing in the neighborhood of 6,172 pounds.
The satellites, produced by Thales Alenia Space for O3b Networks, will provide broadband Internet access to remote areas around the world. The satellites will operate from a medium-Earth altitude, delivering telecommunications and Internet service to Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. The satellites are expected to offer service at the speed of fiber-optic networking. The goal of O3b is to provide nearly 180 countries with low-cost, high-speed Internet and Mobile connectivity.
Today’s mission will have a duration of about 2 hours and 22 minutes. The first two satellites will be released from a dispenser system at about 2 hours after liftoff, followed 20+ minutes later by the remaining two. Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage will perform four separate propulsive burns during the mission in order to put the satellites into their respective orbits.
The Soyuz rocket is outfitted with a radar transponder that will allow its location to be monitored and controlled continuously during the flight. The rocket is also modified to launch in the high heat and humidity associated with Kourou this time of year.
The four O3b Networks satellites are the first of 12 satellites scheduled to be launched into space to complete a telecommunications and Internet infrastructure for the developing world. A second set of four satellites are scheduled for another liftoff later this year, with the final four set for launch in 2014.