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EU Satellite Operator SES Launches ASTRA 2G Broadband Spacecraft

Monday, December 29th, 2014 (8:35 am) - Score 2,015

Satellite operator SES has proudly reported that the last from a new batch of spacecraft, ASTRA 2G (all 6.6 tons of it – based on the Eurostar E3000 platform), has been successfully launched into space by a Russian-made ILS Proton Breeze M rocket from Kazakhstan (i.e. more broadband Internet capacity for Europe, the Middle East and Africa).

The satellite, which will be deployed at the 28.2/28.5 degrees (East) orbital arc around planet Earth, was first announced back in 2010/11 (here) as part of several new spacecraft (including ASTRA 2F and ASTRA 2E, which have already launched) that could better harness the Ka-band (26.5-40GHz) and Ku-band (12-18GHz) radio spectrum to deliver TV/media services and faster broadband speeds into remote locations.

Apparently ASTRA 2G, which will have a total wingspan of 40 meters once its solar arrays are deployed in orbit (generating 13kW of power), carries 62 Ku-band and 4 Ka-band transponders. It is expected to stay in service for around 15 years and by then there will be a new range of even faster and more capable Satellite’s to replace it.

Martin Halliwell, CTO of SES, said:

We would like to congratulate ‘Airbus Defence and Space’ and ILS for the successful ASTRA 2G mission, a launch that marks the 24th SES satellite to be launched by ILS Proton, and the ninth Eurostar satellite in the SES fleet. The ASTRA 2G satellite completes our significant replacement investments at a strategic orbital neighbourhood over Europe and provides 10 incremental transponders for expansion while cementing our unique co-positioning satellite back-up-scheme.

The spacecraft furthermore includes the capability to connect West Africa to Europe via Ka-band. In combination with ASTRA 2E and ASTRA 2F which were launched in September 2012 and 2013 respectively, ASTRA 2G is the culmination of our fleet renewal programme at the 28.2/28.5 degrees orbital arc. The new state-of-the-art SES satellites provide more focused and higher power to our broadcast customers, while the Ka-band on board supports the delivery of next-generation satellite broadband services as well as intercontinental connectivity between Africa and Europe.”

Several UK ISPs make use of the SES Astra Satellites’ (e.g. Apogee, EuropaSat and Satellite Internet) to deliver Internet download speeds of up to around 20Mbps and the new spacecraft should add some extra capacity, redundancy and more coverage into the mix.

Prices for related services tend to start at around £10 per month for a slower connection (4Mbps) with a tiny usage allowance, while a top “unlimited” (Fair Usage Policy) service at speeds of 20Mbps will set you back closer to £70 and then there are the huge hardware and installation fees to consider (expect to pay around £400+ for both – unless you DIY it, which can be quite tricky).

Meanwhile Eutelsat and Avanti supply rival broadband satellite platforms to the UK and Europe, which feature similar capabilities. Sadly satellite data usage allowances tend to be very poor for the money and all such space-based platforms will invariably suffer from painfully slow latency times, which make them useless for fast paced multiplayer gaming and some other online tasks.

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