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SES Astra SA, is a corporate subsidiary of SES, based in Betzdorfmarker, in eastern Luxembourgmarker, that owns and operates the Astra series of geostationary communication satellites, which transmit approximately 2490 analogue and digital television and radio channels via 317 (264 utilised) transponders to 122.2 million households across Europe.

Formed in 1985 as Société Européenne des Satellites (SES), it was Europe's first private satellite operator. Its slogan is currently "Your Satellite Connection to the World".

The first customer of SES Astra was Sky Television which leased four transponders on Astra 1A ahead of its launch in 1989. UK and Ireland-aimed channels ceased at 19.2°East in September 2001 with the closure of Sky's analogue service, although their digital service has been the main occupier of Astra's secondary position at 28.2°East since its launch in 1998.

Astra is a member of the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) consortium of broadcasting and Internet industry companies (also including Humax, Philips, OpenTV and ANT Software) that is promoting and establishing an open European standard (called HbbTV) for hybrid set-top boxes for the reception of broadcast TV and broadband multimedia applications with a single user interface.

Satellite details

SES Astra operates 15 satellites from five orbital locations - Astra 19.2°E, Astra 28.2°Emarker, Astra 23.5°Emarker, Astra 5°Emarker, Astra 31.5°Emarker. Astra's principle of "co-location" (several satellites are close to each other, all within a cube with a size of 150 km;) this increases flexibility and redundancy.



Satellite Launch Date Manufacturer Model Launch vehicle Comments
ASTRA 19.2°E
1H June 16, 1999 Hughes HS-601HP Proton
1KRmarker 20 April 2006 Lockheed Martin A2100 Atlas V (411) Launched after the failure of Astra 1K.
1Lmarker May 4, 2007 Lockheed Martin A2100 Ariane 5-ECA Replacement for 1E/2C; Ku and Ka bands
1Mmarker Nov 6, 2008 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Proton-M To replace 1G and provide backup at 19.2° East. Ready for commercial service 20 January 2009
ASTRA 28.2°Emarker
2A August 30, 1998 Hughes HS-601HP Proton
2B September 14, 2000 Astrium Eurostar E2000+ Ariane 5G
2Dmarker December 19, 2000 Hughes HS-376HP Ariane 5G
ASTRA 23.5°Emarker
3A March 29, 2002 Boeing HS-376HP Ariane 44L
1E October 19, 1995 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42L Moved from 19.2° East to 23.5° East to provide additional capacity alongside Astra 4A for central and eastern Europe.
1G December 2, 1997 Hughes HS-601HP Proton-K Power problems, now max 20 transponders. Moved from 19.2° east February 2009 following launch of Astra 1M
ASTRA 5°Emarker
4A November 18, 2007 Lockheed Martin A2100AX Proton-M Leased transponders of Sirius 4, marketed as Astra 4A
1C May 12, 1993 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42L Moved from 19.2° East to 5° East to provide occasional capacity alongside Astra 4A. In inclined orbit
ASTRA 31.5°Emarker
2C June 16, 2001 Hughes HS-601HP Proton Initially deployed at 19.2° East pending launch of 1L, then moved to originally intended position of 28.2° East. Moved to 31.5° to temporarily replace the failed Astra 5A
1D November 1, 1994 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42P Originally at 19.2° East; used at 28.2° East and 23.5° East. Moved to 31.5° East to provide occasional capacity alongside Astra 5A (now failed) for central and eastern Europe and Russia. In inclined orbit
NO LONGER IN OPERATION FOR SES ASTRA
1A December 11, 1988 GE AstroSpace GE-4000 Ariane 44LP The first Astra satellite. Now retired in graveyard orbit.
1Bmarker March 2, 1991 GE AstroSpace GE-5000 Ariane 44LP Acquired from GE Americom (Satcom K3). Now retired in graveyard orbit.
1F April 8, 1996 Hughes HS-601 Proton-K Moved in August 2009 to 57°E for SES World Skies until NSS12 is launched in early 2010
1K November 26, 2002 Alcatel Space Spacebus 3000B3S Proton Launched to 19.2° East but failed to reach geostationary orbit, and intentionally de-orbited on December 10, 2002.
5A November 12, 1997 Alcatel Space Spacebus-3000B2 Ariane 44L Formerly known as Sirius 2. Moved to 31.5° East and renamed Astra 5A on April 29, 2008. Failed in-orbit January 16, 2009
NOW IN CONSTRUCTION
3B Due end 2009 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5-ECA To replace all capacity at 23.5° East. 52 transponders in Ku band and 4 in Ka band
1N Due 2011 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 To replace 1H and provide backup at 19.2° East
2E Due 2012-2014 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 To replace some of the capacity at 28.2° East.
2F Due 2012-2014 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 To replace some of the capacity at 28.2° East.
2G Due 2012-2014 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 To replace some of the capacity at 28.2° East.
5B Due 2012-2014 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 To add new capacity & replace existing craft at 31.5° East.
Notes
  1. 19.2° East is the most common orbital position for direct-to-home satellite TV and radio transmission in Germanymarker, Western and Central Europe.
  2. British Sky Broadcasting broadcast their Sky Digital direct-to-home television service to the United Kingdommarker and Republic of Irelandmarker from the 28.2° East satellite constellation. Eutelsat's Eurobird 1 satellite also operates close to this position.


Satellite manufacturer and launch

SES Astra operates satellites designed by Boeing Satellite Systems or BSS (formerly Hughes Space and Communications), EADS Astrium, Alcatel Space, and Lockheed Martin.

Astra satellites within a family are not identical, for example of the Astra 2 satellites; 2A and 2C are BSS 601HPs, 2B is an Astrium Eurostar-2000 and 2D is a BSS 376.

The satellites are launched by Arianespace rockets from Kourou, French Guianamarker or International Launch Services Proton rockets from Baikonurmarker, Kazakhstanmarker. The satellites are launched into an elliptical "temporary transfer orbit" from where they use onboard propulsion to reach their final circular geostationary orbits, at nearly 36,000 km altitude. Proton rockets fitted with a fourth stage propulsion unit are capable of launching the satellites several thousand kilometres higher (at the closest point of the elliptical orbit) than Ariane rockets. As a result most satellites launched in this way have to use less fuel to reach their geostationary orbit, increasing their lifetime.

Failures

Astra 1K, the largest commercial communications satellite ever built at the time, was ordered by SES-Astra in 1997. It was launched by Proton rocket on November 26 2002. The rocket lifted off as planned and reached its parking orbit at which point the final stage of the rocket was to initiate a second burn to transfer the satellite to its geostationary orbit. This did not occur and the satellite was released into the parking orbit, making it unusable. The only way to recover the satellite would have been the use of a Space Shuttle, however this was rejected. On December 10 2002 SES Astra instructed Alcatel Space (the manufacturer) and the French Space Agency CNES to deorbit the satellite, it broke up on re-entry over the Pacific Oceanmarker.

On January 16, 2009 Astra 5A at 31.5° eastmarker "experienced a technical anomaly leading to the end of the spacecraft’s mission" some four years ahead of the spacecraft's expected end of life. Traffic carried by the satellite (especially channels for German cable service, Kabel Deutschland) was transferred to Astra 23.5°Emarker. In March 2009, SES Astra announced that in April, the Astra 2C satellite was to be moved from the 28.2° eastmarker position to 31.5° east to temporarily take over Astra 5A's mission until Astra 3B is launched to 23.5° eastmarker , when another craft currently there can be released to 31.5° east.. The move of Astra 2C was started in May and completed on May 11 with the first transponders coming into use at the new position in the subsequent two weeks.

See also



References

  1. ASTRA Infobooklet SES ASTRA. March 2009. Company facts compedium
  2. Satellite technology
  3. Astra 2C arrived at 31.5 East. LyngSat. Retrieved June 1, 2009


External links




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