European satellite launch provider Arianespace completed its first-generation O3b satellite constellation early this week by launch of four satellites through Soyuz rocket that was lifted off from Europe’s Guiana Space Center located at Kourou in French Guiana. The 700 kg satellites that are designed for providing internet broadband connectivity separated themselves two at a time from Russian Soyuz rocket that put them in orbit a couple of hours after takeoff while the second set separated around 22 minutes later. With this launch the SES now has around 20 O3b satellites within medium Earth orbit that were built by Thales Alenia Space.
These Ka-band satellites located 8000 kilometers above earth each have throughput of 20 GB per second that are operated by Luxembourg based SES. As these are located just a fourth of the distance from other telecom satellites their closer proximity reduces the lag time for communication. According to Suzanne Ong the spokesperson for SES the addition of four new satellites has increased the throughput of its constellation by 26 %. The coverage area of O3b constellation remains the same and spans 50 degree south and north of equator. The entire constellation of O3b satellites was launched in segments since 2013 by Arianespace through Soyuz rockets that carried them four at a time.
Since the success of Soyuz multiple companies like SpaceX and Telesat have launched broadband satellites in low Earth orbit while OneWeb has placed six satellites in this region. According to SES Networks CEO John-Paul Hemingway he stood by the firm’s decision to stay focused in medium earth orbit as there are latency challenges in low earth orbit that will make it necessary for the satellites in this region to route traffic through several stops for carrying out long-distance communication. He said that from this location SES can route latency-sensitive traffic related to video conferencing and other traffic related to web browsing over its 50 odd geostationary satellites.