SES/Boeing planning O3b Gen-3
November 12, 2022
November 10th saw a press unveiling and briefing at Boeing’s El Segundo satellite manufacturing facility of the first of SES’s new O3b/mPOWER satellites. The first pair out of a total manifest of 11 craft will be launched around December 15th.
SES CTO Ruy Pinto told journalists that the operator believed they had something very special with the new mPOWER fleet. Each craft has a potential 5000 spot beams, making them the ‘Holy Grail’ of flexible configurability.
The O3b/mPOWER satellites will obit at mid-Earth altitudes (of about 7825 kms) and “provide terrestrial-type connectivity for all the folks that are on a cruise ship or that are in an A380 or in a flotilla of Navy ships for crew welfare,” said Pinto.
The satellites are badly needed. The original order for seven craft was placed back in September 2017 and an anticipated launch for the first few in 2021. Four more were ordered in August 2020 but then Covid got in the way of both manufacturing and launch plans.
Thankfully, those launch delays are now transiting into actual launch plans. The first pair (mPOWER 1 and 2) will be launched aboard a SpaceX rocket on December 15th, with another pair (3 and 4) launched in January 2023 and again in February (for 5 and 6). mPOWER 7 and 8 will launch later next year with 9, 10 and 11 happening on the same flight in 2024. Services will start in Q3 2023.
But SES – and perhaps Boeing – are already thinking of a 3rd Generation fleet for O3b.
“What we have been through the last few years with the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine has just highlighted some changes in the way we look at space. These trends were there before but they have accelerated over the last few years,” said Pinto.
Consequently, SES is looking at a 3rd Generation version, and asking what can be done to increase power and tap into the next stage in technological development while at the same time keeping the concept relevant in terms of technology. Pinto told journalists that that one aim was to increase the power from single-digit gigabits/second to double-digit gigabits.
He added that the question for the design teams was how SES could partner and stretch the envelope so that in three or four years it would change the game again for the operator.