Sunday, December 29, 2013

Space Systems/ Loral Partners with AsiaSat to Build AsiaSat9

          by Sarah Ansari-Manea

AsiaSat 8 in orbit. Graphic c/o MDA.
BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) subsidiary Space Systems/Loral (SSL) and Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat); have publicly announced a manufacturing agreement for the next generation AsiaSat9 satellite.

As outlined on the December 16th, 2013 press release "SSL Selected to Build High-Power Multi-Mission Satellite" on the AsiaSat website, the new contract will cover satellite construction costs and is a logical follow-ons to five previous SSL contracts, including the construction contracts for AsiaSat6 and AsiaSat8.

Expected to launch in 2016, the multi-mission satellite will not only be used for television broadcast, and broadband services across the Asia Pacific, but will also host a host a commercial meteorology payload. Known as the Sounding and Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology (STORM), which will be a hyperspectral sensor designed to provide high-resolution soundings of atmospheric conditions, including temperature and humidity, for weather forecasting and storm tracking. STORM is based on NASA's cancelled Earth Observing 3 (EO3) mission, which was designed to use a Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer (GIFTS).

We can depend on our trusted partner SSL to build the highly reliable satellites that have helped us earn a reputation for quality service and technical excellence,” said William Wade, President and Chief Executive Officer of AsiaSat. “We are very pleased that the AsiaSat 9 project is underway and once launched, it will greatly expand our ability to serve the Asia-Pacific region with higher power and multi-beam coverage.”

AsiaSat6 being tested in the SSL thermal vacuum testing chamber in August 2013.  AsiaSat6 is expected to launch in the second quarter of 2014. Photo c/o AsiaSat.

Located at 122 degrees East Longitude, and designed to replace AsiaSat4, AsiaSat9’s mission flexibility is unlike those of its predecessors. Its services will be provided to several Asian markets, with much higher performance and sophistication than the other AsiaSat satellites. The technological basis for the SSL built AsiaSat's are based on the SSL 1300 series space-proven satellite bus, known for its quality, performance, and history of reliability.

Working with GeoMetWatch Corp, based in Utah, the STORM sensor on AsiaSat 9 will be the first of six instruments, and will be sending back important, and previously unavailable, weather data. Asia Pacific has been, and will continue to be hit by terrible tropical storms, but with the help of this new technology, tracking severe weather and atmospheric instability and analysis is possible.

STORM will provide significantly earlier warning for severe weather and climate instability, and it will do so faster, more frequently and with finer detailed measurements than any capability in orbit today,” said David Crain, Chief Executive Officer of GeoMetWatch.

Sarah Ansari-Manea.
The manufacturing of next generation, flexible, and reliable satellites is a sector Canada has been succeeding in, and time can only tell if it stays as such.

Sarah Ansari-Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

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