Russian Rocket Launches Communications Satellite
An International Launch Services Proton rocket launched Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat broadband satellite into orbit on Dec. 27, 2010.
Credit: International Launch Services

An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket on Dec. 27 successfully placed Eutelsat's Ka-Sat broadband satellite into orbit in the eighth and final commercial ILS launch for 2010, ILS and Eutelsat announced.

Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor said the satellite, which separated from the Proton's Breeze M upper stage nine hours and 12 minutes after liftoff from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, had established communications with ground teams and was healthy in orbit.

With a total throughput of 70 gigabits per second, Ka-Sat is the first of several planned high-throughput spacecraft set for launch in the next two years to provide consumer broadband in Europe and North America. It represents a rare gamble for the historically conservative Eutelsat, which has created a highly profitable, and growing, business of providing television services to homes in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. [Photo of Ka-Sat's launch]

Ka-Sat brings Paris-based Eutelsat into the new business of consumer broadband. It represents an investment of 350 million euros ($460 million) including the satellite's construction, launch, insurance and the ground segment.

Eutelsat has said Ka-Sat, whose capacity will be marketed under Eutelsat's Tooway consumer broadband label, will reach financial break-even with 700,000 subscribers but is capable of accommodating more than 1 million subscribers. The company has promised investors that Ka-Sat will generate 100 million euros per year in incremental revenue starting in its third full year of service.

Built by Astrium Satellites, Ka-Sat weighed 6,150 kilograms at launch. Its 82 spot beams, each with 900 megabits per second of capacity, will link with 10 gateway Earth stations to provide consumer broadband services as part of the Tooway service.

Ka-Sat, which is expected to undergo five months of in-orbit testing, will begin operations in May at Eutelsat's 9 degrees east orbital slot, not far from Eutelsat's existing satellite fleet.

In a Dec. 27 statement, Eutelsat said Ka-Sat will serve more than 1 million residential customers but also could be used for regional television, newsgathering and connecting local networks to the Internet backbone. Eutelsat officials are also studying possible applications for military use, for example in training flights for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Tooway customers with dual-feed antennas on their roofs will be able to receive television programming from Eutelsat satellites located up to 10 degrees away from Ka-Sat in addition to their Ka-Sat broadband connections, Eutelsat said.

In a Dec. 27 interview, O'Connor said Eutelsat is operating Ka-Sat at 9 degrees east, and not 13 degrees east as originally planned, because providing dual-feed services of television and broadband to Eutelsat's customers is more efficient from the 9 degrees slot.

To receive Ka-Sat's two-way Ka-band signals, Eutelsat's current satellite-television subscribers will need to add new hardware to their existing receive-only, Ku-band television dish antennas.

Eutelsat's user terminals are being provided by ViaSat Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif., which owns the U.S.-based WildBlue consumer broadband service.

"This new program will deliver more capacity than any other satellite ... deployed worldwide," Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen said in a Dec. 27 statement. "These new resources will in particular benefit Internet service providers, enabling them to expand broadband to consumers and enterprises in areas unserved by terrestrial networks. Ka-Sat will also consolidate Eutelsat's professional data-network activity, which generates 15 percent of our revenues, with solutions for enterprises and public administrations."

Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.