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Lockheed Martin launches DTH satellite system Astra for Europe

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MUMBAI: A European direct-to-home television satellite Astra -1KR launched into space yesterday atop an Atlas 5 rocket.

The satellite which has been built by Lockheed Martin is a high-power Ku-band satellite that features 32 transponders. It will provide distribution of DTH services across Europe. It will be located at 19.2° East, European satellite operator SES Astra's prime orbital position for delivering broadcast services to Europe, and will also transmit HDTV channels. With its satellite fleet Astra claims to reach 107 million homes in Europe.

SES Astra is relying on the satellite to become a critical replacement in its space network, which provides more than 1,600 television and radio channels to 107 million households using a fleet of spacecraft.

The cost of the mission is estimated to be about $200 million. Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems president Ted Gavrilis says, "Our long-standing relationship with SES Astra spans a period of nearly 20 years beginning with the launch of SES Astra’s first satellite, Aatra 1A, in 1988.

“We are pleased once again to deliver to SES Astra, a state-of-the-art satellite using our flight-proven spacecraft architecture. I also commend our launch team and our SES Astra and ILS partners for their joint efforts and total dedication to Mission Success, which culminated in a textbook launch.”

SES Astra president and CEO Ferdinand Kayser says, “We are very proud and satisfied that the Astra 1KR mission has been a success. Astra 1KR will benefit our customers, further strengthen our unique inter-satellite back-up scheme and provide replacement capacity for our Astra 1B and Astra 1C satellites. The success of the Astra 1KR mission is a milestone in our company history and shows that we have strengthened the fruitful cooperation with our launch partners, Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems and International Launch Services.”

The satellite will use an onboard engine over the next week to circularise its transfer orbit. Once in geostationary orbit, the solar array and antenna appendages will be deployed and then a week spent testing onboard systems.

The handover of the satellite to SES Astra is expected early next month. This will allow controllers in Betzdorf, Luxembourg to perform an extensive checkout of the communications payload and positioning of the craft at its final orbital slot over the equator at 19.2 degrees East longitude.

The Lockheed Martin A2100 geosynchronous spacecraft series is designed to meet a wide variety of commercial and government telecommunications needs ranging from Ka-band/broadband services and fixed satellite services in C-band and Ku-band payload configurations, to high-power direct broadcast services using the Ku-band frequency spectrum and S-band mobile satellite services. The A2100's modular design features a reduction in parts, simplified construction, increased on-orbit reliability and reduced weight and cost.

SES Astra's satellite is expected to enter commercial service in June, expecting to last at least 15 years. It will replace the aging Astra 1B and Astra 1C spacecraft which had been launched in 1991 and 1993 respectively.

The Astra Satellite System is a DTH satellite system in Europe, delivering services to some 107 million Direct-to-Home and cable households. The Astra satellite fleet currently comprises 13 satellites, transmitting in excess of 1600 analogue and digital television and radio channels as well as multimedia and Internet services.

Astra's two prime orbital positions for DTH services are 19.2° East and 28.2° East. Professional services such as Direct-to cable (DTC), Satellite Newsgathering (SNG) and Occasional Use are offered from the orbital position of 23.5° East.

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