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Eutelsat’s 117 West B all-electric satellite, launched last June by SpaceX is now on position, fully tested and working to support clients, says Eutelsat.
The long gap between launch and service introduction is because E-117WB, once launched, used its own on-board electric propulsion to raise itself to its correct orbital position. This is now a tried and tested solution for satellite operators, but the process is slow when compared to chemical satellite propulsion.
The upside benefits, however, are considerable. Eutelsat would have saved millions of Euros in its launch cost, and while the satellite is designed for the usual 15-17 years of working life, it is quite likely to exceed that period thanks to its on-board Ion electric thrusters which maintain the satellite in position.
Originally planned as SatMex-9, this spacecraft is equipped with 48 Ku-band transponders (36 MHz equivalent) connected to four beams providing premium coverage of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, the Andean region and the Southern Cone of South America. Eutelsat’s new satellite complements E-117 West A, launched in 2013, to create a multi-satellite neighbourhood at 117° West, which is already used by Millicom’s Tigo Star, Stargroup and Televisa. It will also provide key services to telecom operators and government service providers in Latin America.
Interestingly, E-117 WB is also carrying a special payload for the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operated by electronics giant Raytheon, which supplies a Wide Area Augmentation System for the FAA. The system will go live in 2018, and is designed for civil aviation and will receive signals from ground stations that verify signal accuracy and rebroadcast the information to GPS users, including airline cockpits, the most demanding of civil GPS applications. It will increase GPS signal accuracy from 10 metres to 1-2 metres, thereby enhancing aviation safety for users in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the continental US including Alaska.