The Alphasat European satellite has launched successfully from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
This is the first flight and in-orbit verification of the Alphabus platform, the new multi-purpose platform for the high-power payload communications satellite market, developed through a public-private partnership (PPP) and supported by the ARTES programme.
The Alphasat signal was picked up by an Inmarsat ground station in Beijing, indicating that the spacecraft was in the expected location, powered up and transmitting. A detailed health check was run at this time. Around 4 hours later Alphasat partially deployed its solar arrays, in a sun pointing attitude.
The Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) operations are being conducted from the Astrium spacecraft control centre in Toulouse. Alphasat is now in its transfer orbit travelling towards its final geostationary orbit position at 25 degrees east longitude, with its coverage centred over Africa and providing additional coverage to Europe, the Middle-East and parts of Asia.
Once established in geostationary orbit and successfully communicating, Alphasat will be delivering a range of services using its highly sophisticated and flexible geomobile communications payload. The innovative on board equipment stretches technology to get the most out of the L-band spectrum and provide extended services offering 50 times frequency re-use and reprogrammable coverage using eight new generation digital signal processors.
These eight integrated signal processors are capable of performing 2 trillion operations per second. The processors give Alphasat great flexibility, allowing power and bandwidth to be moved around the coverage area. Alphasat has been designed for 15 years of in-orbit lifetime.
The ARTES programme has supported not only the development of the Alphabus platform, on which Alphasat is based, but also developed the innovative embarked technologies. There are four technology demonstration payloads embarked on the satellite.
The four hosted payloads include an advanced laser terminal, the precursor to the European Data Relay System, a Q-V Band communication and propagation experiment, an Advanced startracker and an environment effects facility to monitor the GEO radiation environment and its effects on electronic components and sensors.
The Alphasat project is a great example of a public, private partnership building technology which is needed by customers. Its payload has been developed with both the technology and services downstream markets in mind.