The Alphabus Service Module is completing its first voyage - from Cannes (FR) to Toulouse (FR). Transportation began at 02:30 on 26 January. Arrival is scheduled for Friday, 29 January.
The exceptional transport convoy is made up of a 20m truck carrying the spacecraft container, several escort cars, as well as a police escort to close off streets and redirect traffic as the convoy passes through all urban areas.
The Alphabus Service Module consists of the main structure, the central tube, internal deck and several other structural elements equipped with thermal hardware, the chemical propulsion system with the main apogee boost motor, the pressure control assembly with three Helium tanks and the two large propellant tanks inside the central tube, as well as part of the plasma propulsion system with, in particular, the Xenon tanks.
A shipment review was held mid-January to authorize the delivery of the Alphabus Service Module from Thales Alenia, Cannes to Astrium, Toulouse. The last important tests on the chemical propulsion system were conducted successfully last December after transfer of the Service Module in the Cannes explosion proof facility. Since then, some remaining thermal control hardware has been installed and the hardware has been made ready for transportation.
Preparations are ongoing for the receipt of the Service Module at Astrium, Toulouse, where the Service Module will be completed. The next step is the integration of the electronic equipment before the Service Module is switched on for the first time and proceeds with functional tests.
Other structural elements are also in progress at Thales Alenia Space in Torino (IT). The North Half Repeater Module structure, fully equipped with harness and thermal control, will be shipped to Astrium, Portsmouth (UK) in early February for payload integration activities. The Second Half RM structure is progressing according to plan and is scheduled to be shipped to Portsmouth in March.
The Alphabus Proto Flight Model platform will be used on the Alphasat I-XL satellite being built by Astrium for Inmarsat and ESA allowing an early in-orbit demonstration and validation of Alphabus. The Alphasat launch is scheduled in 2012 with Ariane 5. Positioned at 25 degrees East and providing extended coverage to Africa, Europe, the Middle-East and parts of Asia, Alphasat will supplement the existing Inmarsat satellite constellation and offer the opportunity for new and advanced services.
Alphabus, the new European high-power telecommunications platform jointly developed by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space and initiated by a partnership between ESA and CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales), is a coordinated European response to the increased market demand for larger telecommunication payloads. A wide range of commercial payloads to provide TV broadcast, broadband multimedia, internet access mobile or fixed telecommunication services can be accommodated on Alphabus.
The Alphabus/Alphasat activities of ESA are implemented within the framework of element 8 of the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme. For more information, see the links located in the column to the right.