Four O3b MEO satellites are integrated for their upcoming Arianespace Soyuz launch
The four O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites for Arianespace’s first Soyuz mission of 2018 have been integrated with their launcher’s Fregat upper stage, marking a key milestone as preparations continue for a March 6 liftoff from French Guiana.
The four O3b MEO satellites’ mating to the Fregat upper stage is shown in these photos, with front and rear views as they are positioned atop Fregat – which is covered by gold-colored thermal insulation.
These spacecraft – which previously were clustered on their dispenser system – were mated atop Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage during operations in the Spaceport’s S3B payload preparation facility.
This activity will be followed by encapsulation of the Fregat stage and its satellites in a protective payload fairing, creating an “upper composite” unit to be placed atop Soyuz once the vehicle has been rolled out to the launch zone.
After their launch by Arianespace, the O3b satellites will be operated by SES Networks to provide the world with low latency, fiber-like connectivity in the growing mobility, fixed data and government markets. The trapezoidal-shaped Ka-band relay platforms, produced by Thales Alenia Space, have a liftoff mass of 700 kg. each.
Twelve O3b satellites currently are in orbit, launched by Arianespace utilizing its medium-lift Soyuz workhorse to carry four spacecraft each on launches that began in June 2013, followed by missions in July and December 2014.
Soyuz’ March 6 launch, designated Flight VS18 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, will be the 18th with Soyuz from the Spaceport since this vehicle was introduced at the French Guiana base in 2011 – joining the company’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 and lightweight Vega.
Larger versions of the photos above are available for downloading in the Gallery.