Global satellite operator SES has ordered four multi-mission satellites from Astrium to provide replacement as well as incremental capacity for its SES Astra and SES World Skies divisions. The new satellites, to be designated Astra 2E, Astra 2F, Astra 2G and Astra 5B, will allow the release of the existing satellites at two orbital positions (28.2 and 31.5 degrees East) and add new capacity as well as fleet deployment flexibility for the SES group over the coming years. The satellites are scheduled for launch in several steps between 2012 and 2014. The design life of each satellite is 15 years.
The four new satellites will be built on a Eurostar E3000 platform, the latest version of Astrium’s Eurostar series which has proven to be highly reliable in commercial service. A total of 60 Eurostar satellites have been ordered to date. SES has already ordered three Eurostar E3000s: Astra 1M, which entered into service one year ago; Astra 3B, ready for launch early next year; and Astra 1N, which was ordered last year and is currently under construction.
Three of the new spacecraft, Astra 2E, Astra 2F and Astra 2G, will serve to deliver next generation broadcast, VSAT and broadband services in Europe and Africa, and will carry Ku-and Ka-band payloads at 28.2 degrees East.
The Ku-band capacity will allow SES Astra to enhance and secure its existing offering to major Direct-to-Home (DTH) markets in the UK and Ireland. With a Ku-band payload specifically designed to meet the requirements of some of Europe’s largest DTH broadcasters, the satellites will have spot beam and pan-European beam switching capabilities to accommodate both pay-TV and free-to-air broadcasters, and to provide these customers with increased functionality.
SES Astra customers in this region include BSkyB, BBC, ITV, Freesat, Channel Four, UK TV, Virgin Media, Five, MTV and Discovery. The Ka-band payload will allow SES Astra to develop next generation broadband services in Europe, including its growing ASTRA2Connect product.
Astra 2E, Astra 2F and Astra 2G will also include replacement and new capacity for the SES World Skies division, serving the African and the Middle Eastern markets with Ku-and Ka-band capacity. The new capacity will provide continuity of service and expansion opportunities for customers that are today already using the Astra 2B steerable beam over West Africa, as well as for new customers
Astra 5B will be deployed at the orbital position 31.5 degrees East, extending SES Astra’s transponder capacity and geographical reach over Eastern European and neighboring markets for DTH, Direct-to-Cable (DTC) and contribution feeds to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) networks.
SES’ orbital position 28.2 degrees East is currently served by the Astra 2A, 2B and 2D spacecraft. The 31.5 degrees East position is currently served by Astra 2C.