Arianespace has confirmed that it will launch four additional O3b satellites on April 4th. The four extra craft had been expected to launch around the end of March, and will bring the SES-owned constellation of Ka-band O3b satellites to 20.
The launch will be on a Russian Soyuz rocket – dubbed Flight VS22. The O3b fleet of medium-Earth orbit (MEO) satellites is a proven non-geostationary constellation that provides commercial broadband services today, delivering carrier-grade services. The first 16 spacecraft for O3b were successfully orbited by four Soyuz vehicles operating from French Guiana in 2013, 2014 and 2018. Each satellite – built by Thales Alenia Space – weighs about 700 kg. at launch and provides more than 10 Gbps of capacity.
This will complete what is best described as the Mark 1 fleet of O3b craft, but SES is already building its ‘follow-on’ next-generation fleet of O3b mPower satellites which will considerably exand the constellation.
There are seven O3b mPower craft being built and the end result will be “multiple Terabits” of throughput, via a massive (5000) beams of capacity per satellite. The end result is a planned 35,000 formed beams of bandwidth available over the initial system.
Boeing is building the craft with the first expected to launch in 2021 and thus make the fleet the world’s first global multi-terabit system in orbit.
In June 2018 SES received FCC approval to operate up to 42 satellites (that is the 20 that will complete the Mark 1 fleet, plus an additional 22). These next 7 craft under construction would themselves cover 80 per cent of the Earth’s surface.