The largest ever telecommunications satellite constructed in Europe was been safely launched into space.
The 6.6 tonne Alphasat was designed and built in the UK by Astrium, a subsidiary of EADS, at its sites in Stevenage and Portsmouth.
It sits on board the Alphabus platform which was developed in collaboration with Thales and the whole craft was launched safely into space from Kourou, French Guiana yesterday evening.
It was commissioned in a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK maritime data company Inmarsat but has benefitted from significant funding from other UK sources including the now defunct regional development agencies for London, the south of England and the east of England – regions which cross over Astrium’s UK manufacturing facilties.
ESA representatives said that the payload technology on board Alphasat will give European industry competitive advantage as well as advancing pan-European space research projects.
The safe launch of the satellite marks a milestone for the UK space sector and was followed avidly by leaders from all the UK’s Catapult centres at the Oxfordshire Satellite Application Catapult last night.
Alphasat is billed as not only the largest, but also the most sophisticated telecoms satellite ever built. The data its collects will be of huge value to the global shipping, oil & gas, defence and aviation industries says the operator Inmarsat which invested $350 million in the Alphasat project.
Alphasat sits on board the Alphabus platform, has a 40m solar array and supports 12kW of electrical power for its payload technologies.
The platform represents a big competitive breakthrough for Astrium and Thales, rivalling the largest US satellites in operation.
The satellite is the size of a double decker bus and has taken six years to complete. It has an expected lifespan of 15 years.
The eight digital signal processors on board can perform up to two trillion operations per second.