Airbus’s Arabsat 7B telecommunications satellite was launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 27, 2023, marking a new phase in connectivity for users across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. The satellite, part of Airbus’ latest Eurostar Neo geostationary line, was carried by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 once again proved its reliability, launching at just before 6 am GMT and delivering its payload to the geosynchronous transfer orbit just 37 minutes later. The rocket’s lower stage then completed a landing on SpaceX’s autonomous Atlantic Ocean platform, dubbed “Just Read the Instructions”.
The mission’s key payload, the innovative TELEO technology demonstrator, provides ground-to-space optical communication with data transmission speeds up to gigabit levels. This cutting-edge device, designed by Airbus engineers, is set to revolutionise high-capacity communications and is crucial to Airbus’ future development of optical telecommunications technologies in space.
“This marks our third successful Eurostar Neo series satellite launch and our eighth orbital vehicle built for Arabsat. With the groundbreaking TELEO device, Badr-8 will amplify service capabilities through its increased payload and more efficient power and thermal control systems,” stated Jean Marc Nas, Head of Space Systems at Airbus.
After the launch and separation from the launch vehicle, Badr-8 will rely on its onboard electric propulsion system to reach its 36,000 km high geostationary orbit. This process will take approximately four to five months, followed by a thorough testing period before it enters full service. Weighing in at 4.5 tons and boasting an electrical power of 17.8 kW, the satellite is projected to function in orbit for 15 years.
Airbus’ Eurostar Neo platform was developed as a joint venture with the European Space Agency (ESA), the French space agency CNES, and considerable support from the UK Space Agency and other European agencies. The TELEO payload was developed with CNES’s support.
Arabsat currently operates 10 satellites in four orbital positions. Last year, the company placed an order for the Arabsat 7A satellite, built by Airbus’ European rival Thales Alenia Space, to replace the Arabsat 5A satellite launched in 2010.
This mission is the 36th orbital flight for Elon Musk’s SpaceX this year and the fourth Falcon 9 rocket launch in just over a week, following Starlink, OneWeb and Iridium payloads, and a private mission to the ISS by Ax-2 Axiom Space from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.