The launch included the Star One D2 satellite and the Eutelsat Quantum satellite
Last week, Arianespace successfully launched a pair of communications satellites — Star One D2 and Eutelsat Quantum — into geostationary orbit around the Earth for two of the company’s customers: Embratel, the largest satellite operator in Brazil and Latin America and Eutelsat, a European satellite operator.
Built by Maxar Technologies, Star One D2 is described by Arianespace as “a high-capacity, multi-mission satellite with Ku-, Ka-, C- and X-band transponders that will enable it to expand broadband coverage to new regions in Central and South America, provide internet access to underserved populations and add an updated X-band payload for government use over the Atlantic region.”
The company also stated that the satellite will improve access to high-quality services, serving the parabolic fleet in Brazil, Pay TV, cell phone backhaul, data, video and Internet for corporate customers and government agencies.
The Eutelsat Quantum satellite, developed under a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA), operator Eutelsat and Airbus Defense and Space, uses a software-based design and features an electronically steerable receiving antenna. It operates in Ku-band with eight independent reconfigurable beams, allowing the operator to reconfigure in-orbit the radio-frequency beams over the coverage zones, providing “unprecedented flexibility in data, government and mobility services.”
The Friday mission used the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher and took off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, carrying both the Star One D2 and Quantum satellites into geostationary orbit. Sometime later, the company tweeted that its first pasagner, Star One D2, successfully separated, followed later by an announcement that the Eutelsat Quantum also successfully separated.
This wasn’t an entirely new project for Arianespace. Prior to Friday’s launch, Arianespace had already orbited 11 satellites for Embratel and 35 satellites for Eutelsat.
Satellites are becoming increasingly offered as possibly tools to improve global connectivity, particularly in rural and hard-to-reach locations. Last April, for instance, Arianespace competitor SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private American aerospace company, launched an additional 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, bringing the total number of satellites in the Starlink constellation to 422. That’s enough, Musk said at the time, to provide minimal internet coverage.
Unlike Arianespace’s satellites, which are geostationary satellites, Starlink satellites are Low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which hover at a lower orbital height, making them more viable for commercial broadband connectivity. Geostationary satellites, however, are thought capable of providing more reliable services to mobility focussed industries, like aviation and maritime, causing many to believe that a combination of these types of satellites is the best solution.
One such supporter of this strategy is Inmarsat, which announced last week that it will launch between 150 and 175 LEOs to compliment its existing geostationary devices, calling such an architecture “Orchestra.”
“An orchestra brings different instruments together, each supporting the other and playing its role in the masterpiece. We’re building Orchestra on the same concept,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat. “By combining the distinct qualities of (Geostationary Orbit) GEO, LEO and 5G into a single network, we will deliver a service that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Our customers will benefit from dramatically expanded high-throughput services around the world.”
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