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Astra (satellite)

The Astra brand logo
The Astra brand logo
Astra is the brand name for a number of geostationary communication satellites, both individually and as a group, which are owned and operated by SES S.A., a global satellite operator based in Betzdorf, in eastern Luxembourg. The name is also used to describe the pan-European broadcasting system provided by these satellites, the channels carried on them, and even the reception equipment.

From the launch of Astra 1A in 1988 the Astra satellites were owned and operated by Soci t Europ enne des Satellites (SES). In 2001 SES Astra, a newly formed subsidiary of SES, operated the Astra satellites and in September 2011, SES Astra was consolidated back into the parent company.[1][2]

Astra satellites broadcast nearly 2400 digital television and radio channels via five main satellite orbital positions to households across Europe and North Africa.[3] The satellites have been instrumental in the establishment of satellite TV and the introduction of digital TV, HDTV, 3D TV, and HbbTV in Europe.

A book, High Above, telling the story of the creation and development of the Astra satellites and their contribution to developments in the European TV and media industry, was published in April 2010 to mark the 25th Anniversary of SES.

Contents


Satellites

There are 16 operational Astra satellites, the majority in five orbital locations - Astra 19.2 E, Astra 28.2 E, Astra 23.5 E, Astra 5 E, Astra 31.5 E. Astra's principle of "co-location" (several satellites are maintained close to each other, all within a cube with a size of 150 km[4]) increases flexibility and redundancy.

Satellite Launch Date Manufacturer Model Launch vehicle Comments
ASTRA 19.2 E Received in 44.3 million DTH satellite households[5]
1H June 18, 1999 Hughes HS-601HP Proton As of July 2012: in position at 19.2 E but inactive[6]
1KR 20 April 2006 Lockheed Martin A2100 Atlas V (411) Launched after the failure of Astra 1K.
1L May 4, 2007 Lockheed Martin A2100 Ariane 5 ECA Replacement for 1E/2C; Ku and Ka bands
1M Nov 6, 2008 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Proton-M Replacement for 1G and backup at 19.2 E. Started commercial service 20 January 2009[7]
2C June 16, 2001 Hughes HS-601HP Proton Initially deployed at 19.2 E pending launch of 1L, then moved to originally intended position of 28.2 E. Moved to 31.5 E (May 2009) to temporarily replace the failed Astra 5A. Moved back to 19.2 E (September 2010) to temporarily provide capacity until Astra 1N is moved there from 28.2 E.
ASTRA 28.2 E Received in 12.8 million DTH satellite households[5]
2A August 30, 1998 Hughes HS-601HP Proton
2B September 14, 2000 Astrium Eurostar E2000+ Ariane 5G
2D December 19, 2000 Hughes HS-376HP Ariane 5G As of May 2012: in position at 28.2 E but inactive[8]
1N August 6, 2011 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA Started commercial service October 24, 2011[9]
ASTRA 23.5 E Received in 2.6 million DTH satellite households[5]
3A March 29, 2002 Boeing HS-376HP Ariane 4L
3B May 21, 2010 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA To replace Astra 1E and 1G with 52 transponders in Ku band and 4 in Ka band. Launch delayed for nearly two months due to launcher problems.[10]
ASTRA 5 E Received in 4.5 million DTH satellite households[5]
4A November 18, 2007 Lockheed Martin A2100AX Proton-M Originally called Sirius 4
1E October 19, 1995 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42L Originally at 19.2 E. Used at 23.5 E pending launch of Astra 3B. Moved to 5 E September 2010
SES-5 (4B) July 10, 2012 Space Systems/Loral LS-1300 Proton-M Originally Sirius 5, renamed to Astra 4B in 2010 and to SES-5 in 2011. Provides global C-band capacity and Ku-band for Sub-Saharan Africa and Nordic regions.
ASTRA 31.5 E Received in 1.3 million DTH satellite households[5]
1G December 2, 1997 Hughes HS-601HP Proton-K Power problems, now max 20 transponders. Moved from 19.2 E to 23.5 E February 2009 following launch of Astra 1M. Then to 31.5 E (July 2010) following launch of Astra 3B.
OCCASIONAL USE
1C May 12, 1993 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42L Originally at 19.2 E. Used at 5 E. Now at 2.0 E for occasional traffic. Inclined orbit
1D November 1, 1994 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42P Originally at 19.2 E. Used at 28.2 E, 23.5 E, 31.5 E and 1.8 E. Now at 23.5 E in inclined orbit
NO LONGER IN OPERATION
1A December 11, 1988 GE AstroSpace GE-4000 Ariane 44LP The first Astra satellite. Now retired in graveyard orbit.
1B 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 51 E for SES World Skies. Not currently in regular use
1K November 26, 2002 Alcatel Space Spacebus 3000B3S Proton Launched to 19.2 E but failed to reach geostationary orbit, and intentionally de-orbited on December 10, 2002.
5A November 12, 1997 Alcatel Space Spacebus 3000 B2 Ariane 44L Formerly known as Sirius 2. Moved to 31.5 E and renamed Astra 5A on April 29, 2008. Failed in-orbit January 16, 2009
NOW IN CONSTRUCTION
2F September 21, 2012 EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2 E[11] and provision of Ku-band DTH in West Africa and Ka-band in western Europe[12]
2E[13] Due Q2 2013[14] EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2 E[11]
5B[15] Due Q2 2013[14] EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA To add new capacity and replace existing craft at 31.5 E[11]
2G[16] Due Q1 2014[14] EADS Astrium Eurostar E3000 Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2 E[11]

Manufacture and launch

Astra satellites have been designed by Boeing Satellite Systems (formerly Hughes Space and Communications), EADS Astrium, Alcatel Space, and Lockheed Martin. The 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 E2000+ and 2D is a BSS 376.

The satellites have been launched by Arianespace rockets from Kourou, French Guiana, International Launch Services Proton rockets from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and ILS Atlas rockets from Cape Canaveral, USA. 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 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.

Sirius and Astra 4A

The Sirius series of satellites (not connected with the North American Sirius Satellite Radio service) was started in 1993 with the purchase of the BSB Marcopolo 1 satellite (renamed Sirius 1) by Nordic Satellite AB (NSAB) for direct to home broadcasts to the Nordic and Baltic regions from the 5 east orbital position. Subsequent satellites launched to this location include Sirius 2 (1997), Sirius 3 (1998) and Sirius 4 (2007) and the position s coverage has been expanded to include Eastern Europe and Africa.

In 2000, SES (then SES Astra) bought the 50% shareholding in NSAB owned by Teracom and Tele Danmark and in 2003 increased that holding to 75%, renaming the company SES Sirius AB. In 2008 Astra acquired further shares to take its shareholding in SES Sirius to 90% and in March 2010 took full control of the company.[17] In June 2010, the affiliate company was renamed SES Astra and the Sirius 4 satellite renamed Astra 4A.[18]

The Astra 4A designation was originally given in 2005 to part of the NSS-10 craft (33 transponders) owned by another subsidiary of SES, SES New Skies, and positioned at 37.5 west for broadcast, data, and telecommunications into Africa,[19] and in 2007 to part of the Sirius 4 satellite (six transponders of the FSS Africa beam) owned and operated by SES Sirius. From June 2010, the Astra 4A designation has applied to the entire satellite previously known as Sirius 4.

Failures

Astra 1K, the largest commercial communications satellite ever built at the time, was ordered by SES 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 instructed Alcatel Space (the manufacturer) and the French Space Agency CNES to deorbit the satellite, it broke up on re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

On January 16, 2009 Astra 5A at 31.5 east "experienced a technical anomaly leading to the end of the spacecraft s mission"[20] 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 E. In March 2009, SES (then SES Astra) announced that in April, the Astra 2C satellite was to be moved from the 28.2 east position to 31.5 east to temporarily take over Astra 5A's mission until Astra 3B is launched to 23.5 east, when another craft currently there can be released to 31.5 east.[21] The move of Astra 2C was started in May and completed on May 11[22] with the first transponders coming into use at the new position in the subsequent two weeks.

Broadcasting statistics

At the end of 2011, Astra satellite broadcasts were received in over 142 million households in Europe; 61.7 million households received Astra services via a direct-to-home dish. Another 66.1 million households received Astra services via a cable headend, and 14.6 million households received Astra services via an IPTV network.

The Astra satellite constellation was broadcasting 200 high definition TV channels. 23.45 million households watched high definition TV channels via Astra satellites.

In all, 57% of all European TV homes receive TV from Astra satellite; 73% of all European homes that receive satellite TV, receive TV from Astra satellites; and 80% of all homes that receive HD satellite TV, receive TV from Astra satellites.[3][5]

See also

  • SES S.A. (operator)
  • SES Astra (previous operator)
  • High Above (book)
  • ASTRA2Connect
  • SES Platform Services
  • HD+
  • Solaris Mobile
  • Astra Digital Radio
  • SES Sirius
  • SES New Skies
  • SES Americom
  • List of broadcast satellites

References

External links

ca:SES Astra cs:SES Astra de:SES Astra es:SES Astra it:SES Astra lb:SES Astra hu:SES Astra nl:SES Astra ja:SES no:SES Astra pl:Astra pt:SES Astra ru: ( ) sq:Astra sv:SES Astra tr:SES Astra uk: ( )






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