Tim Furniss/LONDON

Teledesic's T1 experimental technology communications satellite has been launched aboard an Orbital Sciences (OSC) Pegasus XL booster. The air launch, from a Lockheed L1011, took place over the Pacific Ocean on 26 February. Described as the "first commercial Ka-band low Earth orbit satellite", the T1 is a technology demonstrator for a $9 billion, 288-satellite system designed to provide high rate data Internet multimedia and other services by around 2002.

The craft, built by Teledesic and partner Boeing, is based on the OSC MicroStar spacecraft platform. It is also known as the Broadband Advanced Technology Satellite. The MicroStar platform is also used by the OSC-subsidiary Orbcomm for its satellite system.

Launched with the Teledesic craft was NASA's Student Nitric Oxide Explorer satellite. Both satellites were placed into 565km circular, 97í inclination orbits.

Launch of the US satellites marked the start of a busy three days for the space industry. Large communications satellites, the Matra Marconi Space Hot Bird 4 and Lockheed Martin Intelsat 806, were launched into geostationary transfer orbit on 27 and 28 February by Arianespace's Ariane and ILS International Launch Services Atlas boosters, respectively.


The Arianespace flight from Kourou, using an Ariane 42P, carried the 2,885kg Hot Bird 4 for Eutelsat. The satellite will be located at 13íE and will provide television, radio and multimedia services to over 65 million users.

The satellite incorporates the Skyplex, a new processor developed by Alenia Spazio, under a project funded by the European Space Agency, to allow the satellite to be accessed directly, rather than through communications networks, an exercise designed to reduce broadcasting costs.

Arianespace's next launch is scheduled for 20 March. The Ariane 40 model - without strap on boosters - will carry the Spot 4 commercial remote sensing satellite into Sun-synchronous orbit. Arianespace has 42 satellites remaining in its launch manifest.

The Intelsat 806, launched aboard an Atlas 2AS from Cape Canaveral, Florida, was the 29th satellite flown for Intelsat aboard Atlas boosters. ILS has 24 commitments to launch 18 commercial and six military satellites into orbit by 2000.

Source: Flight International