Posted by Courtney E. Howard
PARIS, 26 Sept. 2011. A Zenit-3SL rocket operated by Sea Launch AG from the ocean-based Odyssey Launch Platform in the international waters of the Pacific Ocean has launched Eutelsat Communications’ (Euronext Paris:ETL) Atlantic Bird 7 satellite into orbit. The rocket lifted off carrying the Astrium-built 4.6-ton satellite; and, after a flight spanning one hour and seven minutes, the Zenit-3SL booster released Atlantic Bird 7 into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Partial deployment of the solar array, commanded by Eutelsat engineers from the company’s teleport in Rambouillet, was completed within three hours of separation.
Atlantic Bird sports up to 50 transponders, 11 more than Atlantic Bird 4A; two beams will provide coverage across the Middle East, North Africa, and North-West Africa. Based on the Eurostar E3000 platform, and with a scheduled in-orbit lifetime exceeding 15 years, Atlantic Bird 7 is the 20th satellite ordered by Eutelsat from Astrium.
Early orbit operations are managed by Eutelsat and Astrium engineers, and include circularizing the satellite's orbit and deploying the antennas. Atlantic Bird 7 will undergo a series of in-orbit tests, and then be moved to 7 degrees West in the second half of October to broadcast the 370 digital and High-Definition channels currently delivered by Eutelsat's Atlantic Bird 4A satellite.
Atlantic Bird 7 is intended to bring first-class resources to 7 degrees West, a key video neighborhood delivering Arab and international channels into almost 30 million satellite homes across North Africa and the Middle East. Eutelsat operates at 7 degrees West in close collaboration with the Egyptian satellite operator Nilesat, which manages its own system of three satellites at this location.