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Soyuz March 9, 2018

Flight VS18: Arianespace orbits four more O3b satellites for SES on its fourth mission for the O3b constellation

Arianespace has successfully launched four additional O3b satellites for the constellation operated by SES Networks.

The launch took place on Friday, March 9 at 2:10 pm (local time) from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America).

This mission was the second of the year for Arianespace, the first in 2018 using a Soyuz rocket and the second launch since January for the global operator SES. With this fourth launch for O3b fleet since 2013, all 16 spacecraft in the current O3b constellation have been orbited by Arianespace.

With this latest mission, Arianespace has demonstrated that its family of launchers is extremely well suited to the deployment of communications, navigation and Earth observation satellite systems.

A new launch for SES Networks’ O3b constellation

Today’s mission was the fourth for the O3b satellite fleet operated by global operator SES, following three previous launches to orbit the constellation’s first 12 satellites performed on June 25, 2013, July 10, 2014 and December 18, 2014. With this latest successful launch of four more O3b satellites, Arianespace supports SES Networks’ continued development of its constellation, which started commercial service in September 2014.

The launch at a glance:

  • First Soyuz launch by Arianespace in 2018.
  • 18th Soyuz launch from CSG.
  • 43rd, 44th, 45th and 46th satellites launched by Soyuz from CSG.

The four Ka-band O3b satellites will join the other O3b satellites already in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) to provide low latency, fibre-like connectivity in the booming mobility, fixed data and government markets.

By expanding its O3b fleet, SES will be able to offer 38% more capacity worldwide, and extend its potential market from 45 to 50 degrees north and south latitude.

These new satellites will enable SES Networks to offer more capacity, extended coverage, greater efficiency and higher reliability. At the same time, they will provide operator-class services to businesses, government customers, telecommunications companies, mobile network operators and internet service providers.

Arianespace will launch four more O3b satellites into Medium Earth Orbit for this constellation in 2019.

Arianespace launches 57 satellites for SES in a 30-year partnership

SES, a world-leading satellite operator, is the first to deliver a differentiated and scalable GEO-MEO offering worldwide, with more than 50 satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) and 12 satellites in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).

  • The four O3b satellites on Flight VS18 are the 54th, 55th, 56th and 57th satellites launched by Arianespace for SES since 1988.
  • Arianespace has 5 more SES satellites in its order book: SES-17 and 4 more O3b satellites.

Arianespace and SES have developed an exceptional partnership over the last 30 years, made even stronger by this latest successful launch. Because of its versatile and complementary family of launchers, Arianespace is perfectly suited to address SES’s GEO/MEO strategy and the requirements of its future programs.

The Arianespace family: especially well-suited to constellation launches

With its current family of launchers (Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega) and its future family (Ariane 6 and Vega C), Arianespace enjoys an excellent position in the growth market of satellite constellations, whether for navigation, telecommunications or Earth observation; and for initial deployment, as well as subsequent replacement launches.

Right from its service entry in 2020, Ariane 6 will offer three major advantages for constellations: larger payload capacity, a restartable Vinci upper stage engine, and the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), allowing the sequential release of satellites to prevent any collisions.

With its family of launchers, Ariane 5 ES, Soyuz and Vega, Arianespace has orbited 110 satellites for constellations, equal to nearly 20% of all satellites launched since its founding:

  • 72 satellites for commercial satellite operators;
  • 38 satellites for governments and institutions.

To address the specific needs of constellations with small satellites (0-400 kg.) – primarily for Earth observation – two multiple launch systems for Ariane 6 and Vega C are now being developed with the European Space Agency and the European Commission.

Shortly after the official announcement of the orbital injection of the O3b satellites on today’s Flight VS18 mission, Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, said: “With this second launch of the year, and the first by Soyuz, Arianespace is proud to help its long-standing customer SES meet its ambitious goals, for the second time in 2018. We are honored by the renewed confidence placed in us by SES, for whom we have launched 57 satellites since 1988, including the entire O3b constellation. I also would like to congratulate Thales Alenia Space, another loyal partner, which built all four O3b satellites. I would like to thank the Russian space agency Roscosmos for their commitment to our partnership based on Soyuz. My thanks go as well to CNES/CSG, our ground segment partners and all employees at the launch base, who continue to support us as we go from success to success. And of course, congratulations to all Arianespace staff, for this 18th Soyuz launch from CSG.”

O3b satellites

O3b satellites are built by Thales Alenia Space at its plant in Cannes, France. The payload offers Ka-band wide beams. These four O3b satellites will be positioned in medium Earth orbit (MEO) at an altitude of 7,830 km.

The satellites weighed a combined total of 2,800 kg. at liftoff (700 kg. per satellite).

About Arianespace

Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 570 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 17 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.

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