On Saturday, January 28th, the European Space Agency launched its new small telecom platform from its spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Based on the SmallGEO model, the Hispasat 36W satellite successfully reached lower earth orbit on a Soyuz rocket just 29 minutes after launch.
After demand for more flexibility with broadband internet, the satellite will provide modular telecommunications services to Europe, the Canary Islands, and South America.
SmallGEO and the OHB System in a Nutshell
The German satellite manufacturer OHB System AG built the three-tonne device, and it will be operated by a Spanish company.
After being released from the rocket, the satellite is now using its own thrusters to maneuver itself into a ‘geostationary orbit’ where it will stay to perform its functions. The orbit is 36,000 km above the equator. At this height, it will circle the earth at the same speed at which the planet rotates. As a result, it will appear to remain fixed in the sky from observers on the surface.
Once it reaches this orbit, OHB System will test the functionality of the satellite’s programs and determine whether or not its performance was damaged during its launch. When everything is ready to go, Hispasat will assume control over the satellite and begin offering broadband through it.
SmallGEO—shorthand for small geostationary satellite—has been an ongoing project of a partnership between the ESA and the Canadian government. The launch of this satellite will function as a test for future projects. If it works, the ESA will soon be sending several similar satellites into space.
Hispasat CEO Carlos Espinos Gomez praised the launch, saying
Hispasat 36W-1 is not only the first mission of the new SmallGEO platform, but also incorporates an advanced regenerative payload that will provide the satellite with greater flexibility and signal quality … thus improving the telecommunications services it will provide to our clients.
Andreas Lindenthal, a board member of OHB System AG, has said he hopes to cut production time on the SmallGEO to under three years. This reduced time of production could enable different missions and different types of missions, with time.
“Commonality is something which we have been able to demonstrate,” said Lindenthal. “We are able to introduce that across the disciplines into the various programs. This is for sure the future.”
Where the Project Gets Its Funding
Use of ESA funds for this project have come under fire for this type of project since its announcement. Magali Vaissiere, the ESA’s director of telecommunications and integrated applications, spoke out against these criticisms, saying,
The European public sector has a vested interest in supported partnerships between the private sector and ESA as it enables industry to take more risks and invest in new products and solutions, and in a way, accelerate their introduction on the market. Without the equivalent of say, the U.S. Department of Defense injecting vast funding resources into R&D, the European public and private sectors must work together to keep us at the forefront of advanced satellite technology and all the spin-off advantages that come with it.
Twelve different member states of the EU invested in SmallGEO, according to Gerd Gruppe, director of space administration at the DLR, including Spain, Sweden, Germany, and Luxembourg, with Spain and Germany having the largest investments in the project.
Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB, admitted feeling proud that due to this new collaboration and the SmallGeo platform, the German satellites will be active again after a staggering 20 years of hiatus.
Image source: pexels.com/photo/discovery-earth-nasa-research-23789/