SES: Astra 2F to launch in September

The next new satellite to provide TV services to Britain and Ireland is to be launched in September from an Ariane 5 booster. Astra 2F will provide additional capacity for UK broadcasters wishing to utilise a spot beam directed at the British Isles. The launch is slightly earlier than the originally published 4th quarter launch, which would have involved a launch between October and December.

The earlier launch date was mentioned today in a press release issued by SES, the operators of the Astra satellites.

In addition to providing UK TV services, ASTRA 2F will "enable the delivery of next generation broadcast, VSAT and broadband services in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and will carry Ku- and Ka-band payloads at the prime orbital location of 28.2° East", according to Astra satellite fleet operator SES. It will have a life span of 15 years.

The launch will herald the beginning of the end of Astra 1N at the UK direct-to-home orbit position of 28.2° East. Astra 1N was brought into service late last year to provide replacement UK coverage for Astra 2D, plus additional spot beam capacity, plugging the gap between Astra 2D being decommissioned and the next Astra 2 satellites being ready. Astra 1N will move to 19.2° East and service Central Europe and down into France and Spain once it is no longer required to serve the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Although Astra 2F will be launched in September, it will not become active with services until at least the end of the year, depending on the launch and the outcome of tests from the satellite. Exact launch timings will depend on the weather, with Astra 1N's launch last year repeatedly delayed due to the weather.

A spotbeam map for Astra 2F has not yet been published on the SES website.

Interestingly, the launch takes the Astra 2 fleet out of alphabetical order. Astra 2D is now out of service, Astra 2F is coming, but what about Astra 2E? Well - SES assure us that it's due to launch in 2013.

More reading:
SES press release: (see notes at foot of release)
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