SES has expanded its constellation of medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites with the launch of four more on a Soyuz rocket. These satellites join 12 existing MEO satellites in the O3b constellation to provide additional broadband capacity to the passenger shipping and offshore sectors.
The satellites will provide coverage between the tropics in Ka-band, similar to the existing satellites, from an orbit that is 8,000 km closer than SES’s own geostationary satellites. They were built by Thales Alenia Space and launched by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana on 9 March.
SES chief executive designate Steve Collar said these four extra satellites will be commissioned ready to begin operation in May this year. He said SES invested in the new satellites because “demand for high-performance bandwidth and networks continues to grow”.
“As O3b is the only successful non-geostationary broadband system, we need these new satellites to fulfil demand across a wide range of verticals and applications,” he explained. This includes helping cruise ship operators provide greater levels of internet connectivity to passengers and offshore drilling rigs to deliver more VSAT capacity to workers and clients.
Carnival uses O3b satellites to provide broadband to passengers on ships such as Regal Princess. Royal Caribbean Cruises also utilises SES Networks MEO maritime service across its fleet for the RCCL Voom service.
SES chief technology officer Martin Halliwell said another batch of four O3b satellties are due to be launched on a Soyuz rocket in 2019. The first 12 O3b satellites were launched by three Soyuz launch vehicles in 2013 and 2014.
SES is also investing in its geostationary constellation and is due to launch what it describes as the most powerful commercial communications satellite, SES-12, in Q2 2018.