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Thuraya satellite launch success

  • Friday, 18 January 2008 | News

The launch of the Thuraya-3 communications satellite from the Pacific Ocean, using a Zenit-3SL rocket, was successfully completed on January 15th, having been delayed a number of times at the end of November due to poor weather conditions.

The satellite was launched from a floating Odyssey platform in the mid-Pacific, at 11.49 GMT on 15 January, placing the 5,170 kg (11,380 lb) Thuraya-3 into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Managed by launch company Sea Launch, the floating platform was located on the equator at 154 degrees West, to take advantage of a principle of physics whereby a rocket launched from an equatorial position can carry a heavier payload into orbit than it could from elsewhere on the Earth's surface.

The Zenit-3SL craft lifted off immediately once the 44-minute launch window opened, with the Thuraya 3 satellite separating itself from the vehicle 98 minutes later. Sea Launch spokeswoman Paula Korn described the launch as "perfect."

Thuraya-3 is the third and latest geo-mobile satellite manufactured by Boeing for Thuraya. The first two satellites, Thuraya-1 and -2, launched in 2000 and 2003 respectively, were the largest commercial satellites ever launched at that time.

The successful completion of the project has marked the end of a difficult period for the communications provider in its attempts to add the new satellite to its network, with a number of previous attempts to launch the rocket having been aborted.

The most recent planned launch of Thuraya-3 was originally scheduled for November 13, 2007, before being cancelled. The launch was then expected to take place November 21, 2007, at 3.25 GMT, before the weather and unusually strong currents put paid to these plans.

Thuraya's CEO, Yousuf Al Sayed, indicated that the launch of this satellite will form an important part of the company's strategy going forward.

Mr Al Sayed also added that the Thuraya has already completed all ground network preparations for Thuraya-3, and set up a commercial infrastructure with a number of partners in East Asia, with a view to a commercial launch early in 2008.

Once operational, the new satellite will double Thuraya's current coverage to include all Asia-Pacific countries, enabling it to offer its services in markets like China, Japan, Australia, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines

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