>@Photo credit « Service Optique CSG » « ESA - CNES - ARIANESPACE »
Development and production of propulsion unit for Ariane 5 European rocket in Vernon (Haute-Normandie) and Bordeaux (Aquitaine) ©Photo credit « Service Optique CSG » « ESA - CNES - ARIANESPACE »

The world’s largest and most sophisticated commercial satellite was launched successfully from the European Space port in Kourou, French Guiana on 25 July. Called Alphasat, it will provide advanced voice and data communications for customers across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The costs for construction and in-orbit validation of Alphasat were around EUR 598m and the EIB financed EUR 225m of research, development and innovation (RDI) out of this.

The satellite is developed and owned by Inmarsat, the world’s largest satellite communication company, headquartered in London. The unique pan-European project was co-developed by Inmarsat, EADS Astrium Satellites, the European Space Agency (ESA), Thales Alenia, and Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES). Alphasat was built entirely on this continent, with different parts and processes carried out in 22 different Member States, representing Europe’s largest ever public private partnership for a space project

Alphasat I-4A F4, to give it its full name, was launched by the venerable Ariane V rocket, marking the culmination of a project with which the European Investment Bank has been involved since April 2010, when former EIB President Philippe Maystadt signed the loan with Inmarsat in the presence of EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan Quinn.

Arianespace, owners and operators of Ariane V, confirmed the successful spacecraft separation just under half an hour after the rocket launched in the early evening of Wednesday 25 July. Alphasat is scheduled to be in its final geostationary orbit position on 31 July, where it will be powered by a solar array spanning some 40 metres as it carries out its mission of delivering the most advanced communications available to Inmarsat customers in the remotest regions of its target area.

A video of the successful launch, in French and English, can be seen here, while further details are also available on the Inmarsat and Arianespace websites.