WASHINGTON — European launch provider Arianespace completed its first launch of the year Jan. 27, orbiting the first SmallGEO satellite for Spanish satellite operator Hispasat.

In addition to being the first SmallGEO satellite to reach orbit, the mission is also the first to use a Soyuz from French Guiana to launch a satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Previous Soyuz launches from the complex in Sinnamary, French Guiana, flew missions to low and medium Earth orbit.

Built by Bremen, Germany-based OHB Systems AG, Hispasat-36W-1 is the first of nine SmallGEO satellites the manufacturer has received contracts to build. The European and German space agencies assisted in funding the satellite, which included an advanced payload called Redsat that can configure up to four beams, changing their strength and location as needed.

Hispasat-36W-1, previously known as Hispasat-AG1 before the operator renamed all its satellites based on orbital position, fell years behind schedule due to technical challenges in manufacturing. The spacecraft is OHB’s first telecommunications satellite, and one it hopes will open up a new market in the 2,500 to 3,500 kilogram range.

Construction of the satellite took four years longer than planned, prompting Hispasat to switch the satellite from an Ariane 5 to a Soyuz launch to save time. The manufacturer is working to reduce the time needed to build future SmallGEO satellites to three years instead of the seven it took for Hispasat-36W-1.

Hispasat-36W-1 reported to ground controllers shortly after separating from the Soyuz rocket’s Fregat upper stage. The 3,210-kilogram satellite carries 20 Ku-band transponders and three Ka-band transponders, providing coverage of Europe, the Canary Islands and South America. It is the tenth satellite in Hispasat’s fleet.

The Soyuz-SmallGEO launch is the first of 12 missions Arianespace has planned for the year, six of which are planned between now and the end of April. The next is an Ariane 5 dual launch of DirecTV Latin America’s Sky-Brasil-1 and Telkom Indonesia’s Telkom 3S on Feb. 14.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...