Checkout is underway with O3b Networks’ four satellites to be orbited on the next Arianespace Soyuz launch
The first four satellites to serve O3b Networks in providing emerging market connectivity worldwide have entered their checkout phase at the Spaceport, readying them for a June flight on Arianespace’s fifth mission from French Guiana with its medium-lift Soyuz launcher.
These satellites are now inside the Spaceport’s S1A clean room facility, and have been removed from the shipping containers that protected them during a trans-Atlantic cargo jetliner flight from Europe to the equatorial launch site.
The spacecraft have a trapezoidal-shaped main body to facilitate their integration on the payload dispenser system to be utilized on the upcoming Soyuz mission. Operating in Ka-band, the Thales Alenia Space-built satellites will be positioned at a medium-orbit altitude of 8,063 km. – offering high-speed, low-cost, low-latency Internet and telecommunications services for O3b customers in emerging markets.
In addition to the first batch of O3b spacecraft to be lofted by the Soyuz mission in June, another Arianespace flight is scheduled to orbit four more later this year for the company, followed by an additional four in 2014.
As checkout of the O3b satellites gains momentum, activity also is underway in the Spaceport’s northwestern sector to ready their Soyuz vehicle and its ELS launch site for the upcoming mission – which is designated Flight VS05 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system. This includes preparations with the Fregat upper stage in Soyuz’ MiK launcher assembly building, as well as routine launch pad maintenance that is performed between missions.
Arianespace has conducted four Soyuz launches to date from French Guiana, beginning with the workhorse medium-lift vehicle’s historic inaugural Flight VS01 at the Spaceport in October 2011 – which orbited two Galileo IOV (In-Orbit Validation) navigation satellites for Europe. It was followed by Flight VS02 in December 2011, carrying a mixed payload of France’s Pléiades 1A dual-use imaging platform, the Chilean SSOT observation satellite and four French ELISA micro-satellite demonstrators. Flight VS03 was performed in October 2012 with two more Galileo IOV spacecraft, and Flight VS04 occurred in December 2012 to deploy the Pléiades 1B payload.
Soyuz is part of Arianespace’s three-member launcher family, which also includes the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and lightweight Vega – which are operated side-by-side at the Spaceport. With this inventory, Arianespace is the world’s only launch services provider today that is capable of launching all types of payloads to all orbits – from the smallest institutional and scientific spacecraft to the largest geostationary telecommunications platforms, along with satellite clusters for constellations and resupply vessels to support the International Space Station.