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‘Facebook’ satellite ready for Sept launch

Israel-based Spacecom says its upcoming AMOS-6 satellite is scheduled for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on September 3rd.

Facebook is a major client for the satellite with capacity booked through Eutelsat of Paris, and worth (to Eutelsat) some $95 million (€83.9m) in total contract value. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg announced the scheme in October 2015, saying it was part of Facebook’s plan to “connect the world”. The Eutelsat agreement covers usage for 5 years with options to extend by a further two years, and utilises Amos-6’s Ka-band spot beams which cover 36 regions and a total throughput of 18 Gb/s.

Zuckerberg added: “Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky. To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies.”

“As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite.”

While the Eutelsat/AMOS deal is an important step for the industry, it is not the only one. Facebook has also booked (in April this year) capacity on three SES satellites to provide WiFi capacity and connectivity to sub-Saharan Africa.

Max Kamenetsky, director of connectivity deployments for Internet.org, and through which all the above capacity has been booked, speaking in April, said: “We are not a satellite company. For us, the satellite was an investment where we saw a specific opportunity to deliver services to parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It’s a first step for us to understand this market, which has not been served very well by operators.”

“There’s a whole gamut of technologies that we think can be introduced. We have talked about the high-altitude planes, and we are looking at what can be done [with satellites] in LEO, MEO and GEO orbit. At the end of the day, I happen to think it will be a multitude of constellations and a multitude of technologies that will be required.”

Amos-6 is a large satellite of some 5500 kgs with 36 Ku-band transponders, and is a replacement for the in-orbit Amos-2 satellite which carries 28 Ku-band transponders and was launched in December 2003 from Baikonur on a Proton rocket.

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