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Alphasat: A European communications giant

Agency
24/07/20131374 views5 likes

On July 25, 2013, Alphasat, the largest European telecommunications satellite, will be launched with an Ariane 5 launcher from the European Space Center in Kourou. It is stationed in geostationary orbit and is equipped with unique technology. It is the first flight of the newly developed Alphabus satellite platform.

In addition to the commercial payload, there are also four ESA supported technology demonstration payloads on board. German, Swiss and Austrian companies play a decisive role in these projects.

Public-private partnership

Alphasat is a project carried out in a public-private partnership between ESA and the British telecommunications company Inmarsat. Inmarsat will also operate the satellite. The Alphabus platform is intended to open up new dimensions for future communication satellites, both in terms of the size of the satellite and the transmission technologies.

Inmarsat will use the satellite to expand its global broadband network BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network). It is a system for telephone connections and, above all, mobile broadband Internet connections. In this way, Alphasat, together with already active Inmarsat satellites, is improving its offer for Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, because the demand for mobile broadband connections is growing rapidly.

New technologies for the future

In addition to the commercial part for Inmarsat's communication lines, there are four payloads on board for technological tests, so-called Technology Demonstration Payloads (TDP).

New technologies and devices are to be tested for future satellite generations and were developed within the framework of the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program number 8, which is financed by the ESA. With this, ESA wants to give the European telecommunications and space industry a new boost. Alphasat is thus entering new dimensions of communication satellites.

The new and very large Alphabus satellite bus, a joint development by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space with the support of ESA and the French space agency CNES, is also making its debut with Alphasat. A satellite bus is the standardized service module of a communication satellite, which is then supplemented by a specific payload module.

EDRS: Future ESA data relay system

The huge satellite also serves to set up ESA's own relay station system, the European Data Relay Satellite System (EDRS).

For this purpose, a terminal from the German company Tesat-Spacecom GmbH is located on Alphasat as one of the TDP payloads, which can receive data transmitted from other satellites using laser light. The data is then impressed on board a radio signal that is relayed to earth. The first geostationary satellite with an EDRS transmission facility is Eutelsat 9B. Via these relay stations in geostationary orbit, information from lower-flying satellites that are used in particular for remote sensing of the earth, such as Sentinel 1a and 2a, is transmitted.

In the following special, further aspects of the unique mission are examined in more detail:

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