First journey for Alphabus spacecraft

February 5, 2010
The Alphabus Service Module on the turnover trolley just before closure of the container. The spacecraft is lowered vertically on the turnover trolley, tilted horizontally , then the whole assembly is slid into the container and closed. Credits: Thales Alenia Space

( -- The service module of the new Alphabus generation of telecommunication satellites has completed its first journey ? from Cannes to Toulouse, in France. The three-day trip was completed last Friday.

The exceptional convoy was made up of a 20 m-long lorry carrying the satellite container, several escort cars and a police escort to close off streets and redirect traffic as they passed through urban areas.

This platform will be used for the Alphasat I-XL satellite being built by Astrium for Inmarsat and ESA, allowing an early orbital demonstration and validation of Alphabus. Alphasat will be launched in 2012 using an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Positioned in geostationary orbit at 25°E to provide extended coverage to Africa, Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia, Alphasat will supplement the existing Inmarsat satellite constellation and offer new and advanced services.

The Alphabus service module consists of the main structure, central tube, internal deck and other structural elements carrying the chemical with the main apogee boost motor, the pressure control assembly with three helium tanks and the two large propellant tanks inside the central tube, as well as part of the plasma propulsion system and its xenon tanks.

A shipment review was held in mid-January to authorise the delivery of the module from Thales Alenia in Cannes to Astrium in Toulouse.

The last tests on the chemical propulsion system were conducted in December in the explosion-proof facility at Cannes. Preparations are under way for completing the service module at Astrium. The next step is to integrate the electronic equipment before the module is switched on for the first time and functional tests begin.

Other structural elements are also being worked on at Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy. The first half of the repeater module structure, fully equipped with electrical harness and thermal control, will be shipped to Astrium, Portsmouth (UK), in early February for payload integration. The second half of the repeater module will be shipped to Portsmouth in March.

Alphabus, the new European high-power telecommunications platform jointly developed by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space and initiated by a partnership between ESA and the French space agency, CNES, is a coordinated European response to the increased market demand for larger telecommunication payloads. A wide range of commercial payloads to provide TV broadcast, broadband multimedia, Internet access and mobile or fixed telecommunication services can be accommodated on Alphabus.

Explore further: MetOp satellite shipped to Baikonur on 18 April

Related Stories

MetOp satellite shipped to Baikonur on 18 April

April 19, 2006

The first MetOp meteorological satellite arrived yesterday at its launch site, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, following shipment from the industrial prime contractor, EADS Astrium in Toulouse, on board an Antonov-124 ...

ESA and Inmarsat prepare for Alphasat

June 20, 2007

Today at the Paris Air Show, ESA and Inmarsat moved closer to the implementation of Alphasat, the first satellite based on Alphabus, the new European telecommunications platform.

Herschel's heart and brain mated

September 19, 2007

Herschel, Europe’s infrared space observatory is being presented to the media today in a joint press event by ESA and Astrium in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Two of the satellite’s most fundamental modules, its ‘heart’ ...

Herschel and Planck missions ready to move to launch site

February 9, 2009

( -- ESA’s Herschel and Planck missions that will study the formation of stars and galaxies and the relic radiation from the Big Bang, respectively, have successfully completed their test campaigns in Europe. ...

Hylas payload shipped to India

November 6, 2009

( -- Hylas, a flexible, broadband Ka-band satellite, is steadily moving towards completion. The communications payload has been shipped from England to India for integration with the platform, marking a key milestone ...

Galileo satellite platform tests under way

December 3, 2009

( -- The engineering model of the first Galileo satellites has completed platform integration tests at the Thales Alenia Space facility in Rome. The platform is now undergoing functional testing. Delivery of the ...

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.