Archive for May, 2007

Ariane Launching ASTRA 1L Satellite

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007


We have a potentially record-setting launch coming up on Thursday, 3 May 2007, from the jungles of French Guiana. We’re talking some heavy payload here. The news via L’Express

La fusée européenne Ariane 5 doit décoller jeudi soir de Kourou pour mettre en orbite une masse sans précédent constituée de deux satellites de communication.

La masse totale – celle des deux satellites Astra 1L et Galaxy 17 et des interfaces – s’élève à 9,4 tonnes, un record mondial pour un lancement sur orbite géostationnaire, rapporte Arianespace, l’exploitant du lanceur.

Le décollage est prévu à 19h29 (22h29 GMT) du Centre spatial guyanais, la base de l’Agence Spatiale Européenne.

Il s’agit du 176e lancement d’Ariane, du 32e vol d’une Ariane 5 et du 10e d’une Ariane 5 ECA, modèle le plus puissant de la gamme, qui peut mettre jusqu’à dix tonnes sur orbite.

Le satellite Astra 1L doit être placé sur orbite 27 minutes après le décollage et Galaxy 17 cinq minutes plus tard.

Construit par l’industriel américain Lockeed Martin Commercial Space Systems en Californie, Astra 1L a une masse au décollage de 4,1 tonnes, selon Arianespace.

Il sera positionné au-dessus de l’Europe continentale, d’où il assurera la diffusion de chaînes de télévision de haute définition (HD) pour le compte de SES Astra, société du groupe Société Européenne des Satellites (SES), basée au Luxembourg.


I’m making plans to watch it myself. The launch window opens at 22:29 GMT and closes at 23:13 GMT on 3 May 2007. Local time in French Guiana is right after dinner (between 19:29 and 08:13 on 3 May 2007), but I doubt anyone will be able to eat beforehand. Here are some local times:

New York: 18:29 to 19:13 on 3 May 2007

Luxembourg: 00:29 to 01:13 on 4 May 2007

Singapore: 06:29 to 07:13 on 4 May 2007

Live television broadcast begins at 21:50 GMT (17:50 EDT; 23:50 CET): 

  • In Europe, the launch will also be broadcast live via ASTRA satellite from the orbital position 19.2° East (downlink frequency: 12.5515 GHz, vertical polarization, service ID 12122, service name ASTRA Vision 2).
  • In North America, lock your antenna on Galaxy 3 at 95 West (transponder 22, C-band; Format: digital 9 MHZ, 4126.5 Vertical, FEC: 3/4, Symbol Rate: 6.1113).
  • Click here to watch the live webcast.

According to our friends at ASTRA, the satellite will be performing a critical mission:

ASTRA 1L will be located at 19.2° East, ASTRA’s prime orbital position for delivering broadcast services to continental Europe, where it will also transmit the increasing number of HDTV channels. The new satellite will allow SES ASTRA to move its satellite ASTRA 2C from 19.2° East to 28.2° East, in order to meet the high demand for capacity from the U.K. and Irish markets. It will also extend the ASTRA coverage from the Canary Islands in the West to the Russian border in the East and further strengthen SES ASTRA`s unique in-orbit back-up scheme.


The launcher itself is described in great detail on the ESA Web site.


Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Nigeria is a country best known for its email marketing scams. You know, the ones written in all caps and started off something like…

"Dear Friend,
It is with heartfelt hope that I write to seek your co-operation and assistance in the context stated below, I am Barrister Fenner Mark Elvis, the personal Attorney to the late Mr. Nobert Spagele. I got your contact through the help of my brother-in-law that works with the American Chambers of Commerce and Tourism, though I did not disclose to him my humble intention for an honest foreigner like you, having noted the confidence reposed on your person by the sponsor of the recommendation…

Well, according to SpaceMart, last January a Chinese Bank fell for a similar line and, at present, is financing the construction of Nigeria’s first communications satellite, NigComSat, which is now set to launch before the end of this month.

While this is not Nigeria’s first satellite, a title held, according to, NigeriaSat-1, launched in 2003 to take photos of Nigeria’s environs, it does mark the first time a Sub-Saharan African country has launched and retained control of their own communications satellite.

Recently "replaced" Nigerian President General Olusegun Obasanjo said that the satellite is a part of his country’s commitment to development:

"This commitment has informed our embarking on programmes and initiatives that would effectively address the challenges of poverty, food security, infrastructural development, sustainable energy, affordable health and housing, and protection from natural and man-induced disasters.

Space technology is key to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the objectives of our holistic reform agenda as encapsulated in the NEEDS document. It guarantees the availability and speedy access to real-team data and geo-partial information, as well as the availability of relevant infrastructure and backbone for information communication"

The Chinese, who are financing, building, and launching the project, are also proud of the effort, the first step in a move to develop a satellite design and construction export business. The launch will take place at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, which has launched some 30 satellite since 1990, 24 of which were commercial launches for overseas clients.


The satellite itself is being constructed by China Great Wall Industry Corp., based on China’s latest model of satellite platform, DFH No. 4, and will feature 28 transponders, including 4 C band, 18 Ku band, 4 Ka band and 2 L bands. The whole thing weighs somewhere around 5000 kg and has an anticipated life-span of 15 years.