Astra 1M readies for launch

SES Astra's latest satellite, 1M, its latest giant craft, has been integrated into its Proton rocket ready for launch next Wednesday-Thursday, Nov 5-6. Astra 1M was built by EADS Astrium and uses their E3000 platform. It will be launched to Astra's main European slot at 19.2 deg East.

Astra 1M will replace Astra 1H and will carry 32 active Ku-band transponders. It was ordered back in April 2005, and part of its mission is to fully back-up the rest of the fleet at 19.2 deg East. Astra has some major accounts using its 19.2 slot, not least a huge number of free-to-air analogue and digital channels going into Germany, as well as the Premiere pay-TV platform. Other significant customers include the CanalSatellite bouquet for France and Digital+ pay-TV bundle for Spain.

ASTRA 1M arrived at the launch site at the end of September, where its fuel tanks were filled and the satellite was assembled in the upper stage of the launcher. Following the launch, the Astrium control centre in Toulouse will take control of the satellite, position it on its operational location, before handover to SES Astra.

Important as this craft is, Astra also have their 1N beast on order. Astra 1N carries an even greater number of transponders (55), and is likely to launch in 2011. With 1N (and 1M in place) Astra will then have an extremely young fleet at 19.2 deg East. The two launches will also enable Astra to free up a number of satellites from 19.2 deg East, allowing them to be deployed to other positions or used to develop new markets.