Initial Batch of O3b Satellites Ready for Handoff to Operator

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PARIS — The first four O3b Networks Ka-band broadband satellites have successfully cleared in-orbit testing and their operation is being transferred from prime contractor Thales Alenia Space to O3b shareholder SES’s Luxembourg campus, Thales Alenia Space announced July 26.

The four 700-kilogram O3b satellites were launched June 25 aboard a Europeanized Soyuz rocket. They operate in an equatorial orbit at 8,063 kilometers in altitude, an unusual orbital architecture designed to minimize the time it takes a signal to travel between the satellites and their ground users.

Based in Britain’s Channel Islands, O3b has eight more satellites under construction by Cannes, France-based Thales Alenia Space. The next four are scheduled for launch in September, also aboard a Europeanized Soyuz. A September launch would permit O3b to begin initial commercial service before the end of the year.

The third four-satellite batch is scheduled for a Soyuz launch in 2014. O3b and satellite fleet operator SES have said that a positive reaction from O3b’s target commercial and governmental markets would trigger an order for more satellites. SES officials have said the O3b orbit could host up to 120 satellites.