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Spotlight on the Airbus Defence and Space fleet

Milestones in the history of Airbus Defence and Space’s communications satellites – in pictures


Airbus Defence and Space’s communications satellites heritage


Astérix: The first French satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space’s predecessor company Matra, a technology demonstrator for qualification of the Diamant rocket, built by Aérospatiale (now Airbus Defence and Space) for the French space agency CNES and launched in 1965.

OTS: The first geostationary communications satellite built by the MESH consortium which included Matra (France) and Hawker Siddeley Dynamics (UK), two companies now merged in Airbus Defence and Space. The two models launched in 1977–78 were the forerunners of the 19 satellites in the ECS series and the precursors for the Eurostar series.


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Airbus Defence and Space’s acclaimed Eurostar series of high performance communications satellites is a product of choice with major operators worldwide, suited to all communications missions and compatible with the whole range of launch vehicles.

More than 50 Eurostar satellites have been delivered since the launch of the very first Eurostar model, Inmarsat-2 F1 – which itself has provided over 20 years of operational service. Together, the Airbus Defence and Space-built Eurostar satellites have accumulated more than 400 years of successful in-orbit operation.

The impressive number of innovations that Airbus Defence and Space has implemented through the years has enabled the Eurostar satellites to become even more efficient, and to offer even greater capacity and operational performance, while all the time retaining the assurance of a robust, proven generic architecture. The current version, Eurostar E3000, can accommodate over 100 transponders, a large number of antennas, and payload power ranging from 4 kW all the way to 14 kW.

Inmarsat-2 F1, the first Eurostar satellite launched in 1990, is still alive – far beyond its design life time. The design featured a novel mass-saving solar sailing concept, first-in-class digital electronics, and a high degree of modularity and flexibility in payload accommodation.

Inmarsat-2 F1 

Hot Bird 2

Hot Bird 2, launched in 1996 and a precursor in digital direct-to-home TV broadcast, was the first Eurostar E2000+.

Eutelsat W3A, launched in 2004, was the first Eurostar E3000 and the first commercial satellite equipped with highly efficient Lithium-ion batteries, a technology which has now become an industry standard.

Eutelsat W3A
Astra 3B

Astra 3B: The Eurostar product line has evolved over time, offering more and more power, greater mission capacity and increased antenna accommodation.

Ka-Sat: The first High-Throughput Satellite (70 Gbps), a large Eurostar E3000 built by Airbus Defence and Space for Eutelsat, entered into commercial service in May 2011, offering broadband internet for all across the whole of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. It marks a radical step forward for satellite broadband services.



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Alphabus is a new-generation platform sized to accommodate large and powerful payloads to meet the demand for higher power, higher performance geostationary-orbit communications satellites. Alphabus has all the flexibility to accommodate single and multiple missions for broadcast, broadband and mobile services, at a payload DC power of up to 22 kW and payload mass up to two tonnes.

A protoflight model of Alphabus has been built and fully qualified as part of the development programme led by Airbus Defence and Space in cooperation with Thales Alenia Space, with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency CNES. It will be used for the Alphasat I-XL mission.

Alphasat I-XL

Alphasat I-XL: The first Alphabus satellite, manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space for Inmarsat, will carry a new-generation multiple spot-beam mobile payload, as well as technology demonstration payloads for the European Space Agency (ESA).

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Airbus Defence and Space’s geostationary communications satellites

Airbus Defence and Space’s geostationary communications satellitesTogether, the geostationary communications satellites built by Airbus Defence and Space have accumulated more than 650 years of successful in-orbit operation, with the Eurostar series satellites alone accounting for over 400 years of service. Click to see details



Read more:

 A special dossier full of informative articles, animation and videos has been created about telecommunications satellites.

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