Europe's largest telecommunications satellite has gone into orbit following a successful launch from French Guiana on Thursday. At 8:38 p.m. GMT, Alphasat (all 6.6 tonnes of it) was picked up at Inmarsat's Beijing ground station, confirming that the satellite was operating as expected.
Alphasat is quite the brute. The solar panels which provide its power span 40 m (130 ft). At its core is a processor capable of "trillions of operations per second."
Co-funded by ESA and satellite comms company Inmarsat in an effort to expand the latter's international mobile network, Alphasat is expected to provide broadband service to Europe, Africa and the Middle East for the next 15 years. However, the ESA has also managed to squeeze a range of "demonstration" payload tech aboard Alphasat. The satellite itself was built by Astrium, a subsidiary of EADS.
Alphasat's launch also marks the first use of the Alphabus platform, a standard for communications satellites with payloads of up to 2 tonnes of additional comms equipment consuming up to 22 kW of power. Alphabus was developed by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space, and commissioned by the ESA and French space agency CNES.
Alphasat hitched a ride aboard an Ariane 5 ECA rocket, which took off from Kourou in French Guiana at 7:54 p.m. GMT.