Soyuz Rocket Launches 4 New O3b Communications Satellites Into Orbit

(Space)– The Soyuz lifted off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana at 12:10 p.m. EST (1710 GMT) after a 33-minute delay caused by meteorological conditions. “We’ve had a bit of an issue with the weather and high-altitude winds,” a launch commentator for Arianespace said during a live webcast of the launch. Despite the delay, it was a picture-perfect liftoff for Arianespace.

If the rest of the flight goes according to plan, the four satellites should deploy in pairs about 2 hours and 22 minutes after liftoff, by 2:32 p.m. EST (1932 GMT). Along with 12 existing O3b satellites, these will enter a medium-Earth orbit at an altitude of about 5,000 miles (8,000 km). [Satellite Quiz: What’s Orbiting Earth?]

Today’s launch sent the fourth batch of O3b satellites into orbit, bringing the total number of satellites in the constellation to 16. Arianespace plans to launch the next four in 2019. “The new Ka-band satellites will join the existing O3b constellation to deliver high-speed connectivity to people and businesses in the growing mobility, fixed data and government markets,” Arianespace officials said in a statement.

“The four O3b MEO satellites orbited on [flight] VS18 will enable SES Networks to offer more capacity, enhanced coverage, increased efficiencies and greater reliability while delivering carrier-grade services,” like carrier Ethernet services, mobile network operators and internet- service providers, Arianespace officials said.

An Arianespace Soyuz rocket lifted off from French Guiana on March 9, 2018 to deliver four O3b communications satellites into orbit.
Credit: Arianespace

This was the second launch of the year for the European launch provider Arianespace — and a much-needed redemption following an anomaly during the last launch on Jan. 25, when the company lost contact with the upper stage of its Ariane 5 rocket shortly after liftoff. The three satellites aboard that rocket did reach orbit despite the anomaly.

Today’s launch was originally scheduled for Tuesday (March 6), but Arianespace postponed it to conduct extra checks. “This will enable additional checks as part of the resumption of launches from the Spaceport in French Guiana,” Arianespace wrote in a mission update on Monday (March 5).

Arianespace is less than two weeks away from its next launch. On March 21, the company plans to launch an Ariane 5 rocket with two communications satellites one for Japan and one for the U.K.

Source:: Space

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