The SES-17 satellite successfully launched into space onboard an Ariane 5 launcher operated by Arianespace. The launch took place late Saturday night from the Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 11:10 pm local time (02:10 am UTC).
We are immensely excited to have SES-17 join our GEO fleet and medium earth orbit (MEO) constellation. SES-17 is the fruit of a successful collaboration between the Thales Group, Thales Alenia Space and SES, and will enable us to address the exponential connectivity demands in aviation and maritime, and to accelerate digital inclusion initiatives across the Americas.– Steve Collar, SES CEO
The satellite joins SES‘s constellation of geostationary operations. Positioned at 67.1 degrees West, the multi-mission Ka-band satellite will provide comprehensive coverage across the Americas, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Read More: SES, Thales, Thinkom raise the bar on inflight connectivity performance with GEO/MEO blend
The very high throughput geostationary (GEO) satellite is set to boost Ka-band capacity and coverage for SES customers operating in the aeronautical, maritime, enterprise, and government markets.
The boost for aviation-related connectivity will primarily be brought to bear by Thales. The company’s FlytLIVE connectivity solution currently operates with capacity from SES’s AMC-15 and AMC-16 satellites, as well as Hughes’s EchoStar XVII and EchoStar XIX. Those satellites provide redundant capacity over North America.
Read More: Spirit Airlines WiFi hits milestone
With SES-17 operational, the FlytLIVE solution will deliver Ka-band coverage across the Americas.
Craig Olson, Vice President at Thales InFlyt Experience explains, “The network and satellite architecture was specifically developed for the unique connectivity requirements of our commercial aviation customers and their passengers. With SES-17, FlytLIVE will provide full coverage for the entire Americas and North Atlantic Corridor delivering an unmatched connectivity experience in the air.”
Currently Spirit Airlines is the primary user of the FlytLIVE solution, with roughly half its fleet currently active on the network.
The satellite must first raise to its geosynchronous orbit position. That should occur over the coming months and the companies expect it to enter service in mid-2022.
Read More: Solving the Thales Ka-band antenna conundrum
SES CEO Steve Collar also notes that SES-17 capacity will integrate with SES’s O3b constellations operating in middle-earth orbit. These include the upcoming mPOWER satellites and their significant boost to MEO bandwidth. “We are looking forward to SES customers being able to leverage the high throughput, global reach and low-latency of SES’s multi-orbit, interoperable Ka-band satellite network comprising SES-17 and our upcoming O3b mPOWER constellation.”
What sorts of terminals might be required for that integration in the aero segment, or the timeline for development and certification remains unclear. Even the most optimistic view of electronically steered, phased array antenna solutions for commercial aircraft now appears to target late 2023 or early 2024.
But SES and Thales also believe the Thinkom Ka2517 solution could deliver that connectivity reliably today. The companies ran test flights in late 2019 switching between the O3b and GEO satellites. While that test focused on business jets, the Ka2517 solution is also successfully deployed on commercial aircraft. Indeed, it is the antenna of choice for Thales today for the FlytLIVE offering.
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