Loss of the OTS 1 Satellite

OTS In Orbit - Artist's Impression

The OTS Satellite In Orbit – Artist’s Impression

This is a sorry tale of how four years’ work was destroyed in 54 seconds. Some say that the number thirteen is unlucky and on 13th September 1977, exactly 35 years ago today, this proved to be the case for me and the whole team that developed the OTS satellite. Here’s how things played out.

The European Space Agency’s Orbital Test Satellite (OTS) was one of the very first geostationary, 3-axis-stabilised Ku-Band communications satellites. It was developed as a test bed for a host of new European technologies and transmission techniques aimed at bringing regional TV and trunk telephony services to Europe. It was the forerunner of the highly successful ECS satellites which were subsequently operated and managed by EUTELSAT.

I spent four years working on different aspects of the OTS satellite, the communications transmission design and on the ground segment earth stations. For any interested readers with a technical bent you can check out details on the EXPERIENCE and PUBLICATIONS pages of this site.

In March 1977 I took on the role of designing, planning and implementing the in-orbit testing (IOT) of OTS. This was to be carried out from Telespazio’s Fucino earth station complex in the mountains east of Rome, Italy, and you can check out the Fucino earth station complex with the interactive Google Map on my related blog post [Read more…]

Vega Launch – Europe’s Newest Satellite Launcher

Tomorrow, 13th February 2012 will see the launch of Europe’s newest satellite launch vehicle, Vega, from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spaceport at Kourou, weather permitting. This first test flight Vega launch will carry 9 payloads – seven Cubesat satellites plus two Italian Space Agency satellites.

The video above provides an extremely interesting overview of the Vega programme. The project is controlled and managed from ESA’s ESRIN Centre for Earth Observation at Frascati, just south of Rome. An idyllic location, given it is at the heart of some of Italy’s finest vineyards. [Read more…]

WGS-4 Military Communications Satellite Launch

ULA Launch of Boeing WGS-4 Satellite

ULA Launch of Boeing WGS-4 Satellite

Boeing has received the first on-orbit signals from the fourth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite it is delivering to the U.S. Air Force. The signals indicate that WGS-4, the first in the Block II series, is healthy and ready to begin orbital manoeuvres and operational testing.
Further detailed information can be found on Boeing’s website here.

WGS-4 launched on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV vehicle on 19th January 2012 at 7:38 p.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Controllers confirmed initial contact with the spacecraft 58 minutes later at 8:36 p.m. Eastern time at a ground station in Dongara, Australia. Boeing’s Mission Control Centre in El Segundo, California confirmed that the satellite is functioning normally.

The dramatic launch video, photographs and further information can be found on ULA’s website here.

WGS-4 is an extremely advanced satellite operating at the established X-Band and the high frequency Ka-Band. It uses phased array, shaped beam, steerable spotbeams to provide coverage to support coalition forces [Read more…]