Although a day later than planned, the first four satellites in the O3b Networks constellation were successfully launched from the French Guiana site atop a Russian Soyuz rocket on June 25th.
This first batch of satellites will now be placed into their correct Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and in stand by for the second batch of 4 due for launch later this summer with a third quartet going up next year.
Jersey-based O3b intends to start providing a global service later this year once it has 8 satellites in orbit. The satellites were built by Thales Alenia Space, which is also building the other 8 craft.
Positioned at an altitude of 8,062 kilometres along the Equator, about four times closer to the Earth than geostationary satellites, these Ka-band satellites will provide telecommunications services and Internet connectivity combining high speed, low cost and reduced latency for emerging markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. O3b Networks will provide local telecom operators with trunking capacity and connectivity for mobile networks, at broadband speeds comparable to those offered by fibre-optic networks.
Google, Liberty and SES are amongst the system’s backers, but despite the technical challenges it seems commercial success is also assured and O3b has already declared more than $750 million-worth of contracted business.
O3b satellites are located in a so-called “repeating” Equatorial orbit, enabling a given ground station to see the same satellite every six hours – which considerably simplifies satellite architecture. Weighing 700 kg at launch, each O3b satellite is based on a platform offering 1.5 kW of power. The payload comprises 12 mobile antennas and 10 Ka-band transponders.