High-tech hitchhikers

Jul 25, 2013

Ready for launch tomorrow, Alphasat – Europe's largest telecommunications satellite – will serve as a testbed for advanced space technologies at the same time as it works on its day job as part of the Inmarsat satellite fleet.

Developed through a public–private partnership with Inmarsat, the 6.6 tonne Alphasat is the first flight of the new 'Alphabus' European telecom platform.

At the same time Alphasat is also flying a quartet of 'technology development payloads' – a pair of them conspicuous in gold- and silver-coloured multilayer insulation here, against this face of the 's predominantly black covering.

The higher up of the two gold-wrapped packages is a Q/V-band payload to investigate the viability of higher frequencies for radio communications as existing frequency bands become progressively overcrowded. Developed by Italy's ASI space agency, the payload was recently renamed for its late inventor, Aldo Paraboni.

Just above it is a black box housing an environmental testing and radiation sensor. Provided by Efacec in Portugal, the sensor tests electronic components and solid-state memory devices against .

To the right of this is an experimental startracker, a standard device for attitude control that images constellations to deduce a satellite's orientation.

Developed by Jena Optronik, this startracker incorporates 'active pixel sensor' technology – also the basis of modern digital and smartphone cameras – that combines decreased power requirements with increased robustness for smaller, more powerful imagers.

Below it, the second payload wrapped in gold insulation is an advanced laser communication terminal, capable of locking onto rapidly moving satellites in low orbits thousands of kilometres beneath Alphasat's fixed geostationary position and receiving up to 1.8 gigabits of data per second.

Developed by Tesat in Germany and furnished by Germany's DLR space agency, this terminal is trialling technology to be used for ESA's pair of European Data Relay System satellites later in the decade, establishing a data highway that will be employed in turn to relay results from ESA's Earth-observing Sentinel satellites to end-users.

Explore further: Two Galileo satellites lose their way

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

When a bus becomes a satellite

Mar 18, 2011

Alphabus has met Alphasat. Europe's largest telecom satellite is taking shape with final assembly and testing ready to begin in Toulouse, France.

ESA and Inmarsat prepare for Alphasat

Jun 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.

Alphasat experiences heaven on Earth

Feb 08, 2013

(Phys.org)—Tucked away in a vacuum chamber for several months, Europe's largest telecom satellite has faced the harsh conditions it will deal with once it is launched into space this summer.

EDRS space network ready to go ahead

Nov 26, 2012

(Phys.org)—The design of Europe's data relay satellite system – EDRS - has been completed and approved. This marks the moment when it moves ahead with a green light from its first customer, the Global ...

First journey for Alphabus spacecraft

Feb 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 ...

Europe okays design for next-generation rocket

Jul 09, 2013

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday said it had approved the final design for a next-generation rocket, Ariane 6, aimed at maintaining Europe's grip on the fast-changing market for satellite launches.

Recommended for you

Two Galileo satellites lose their way

2 hours ago

Two European Galileo satellites launched as part of a navigation system designed to rival GPS have failed to locate their intended orbit, launch firm Arianespace said Saturday.

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

11 hours ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

Aug 22, 2014

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

Aug 22, 2014

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

Aug 22, 2014

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

User comments : 0