Astra is the brand name for a number of geostationary communication satellites, both individually and as a group, which are owned and operated by SES S.A., a global satellite operator based in Betzdorf, in eastern Luxembourg. The name is also used to describe the pan-European broadcasting system provided by these satellites, the channels carried on them, and even the reception equipment.
From the launch of Astra 1A in 1988 the Astra satellites were owned and operated by Société Européenne des Satellites (SES). In 2001 SES Astra, a newly formed subsidiary of SES, operated the Astra satellites and in September 2011, SES Astra was consolidated back into the parent company.
Astra satellites broadcast nearly 2400 digital television and radio channels via five main satellite orbital positions to households across Europe and North Africa. The satellites have been instrumental in the establishment of satellite TV and the introduction of digital TV, HDTV, 3D TV, and HbbTV in Europe.
A book, High Above, telling the story of the creation and development of the Astra satellites and their contribution to developments in the European TV and media industry, was published in April 2010 to mark the 25th Anniversary of SES.
There are 16 operational Astra satellites, the majority in five orbital locations - Astra 19.2°E, Astra 28.2°E, Astra 23.5°E, Astra 5°E, Astra 31.5°E. Astra's principle of "co-location" (several satellites are maintained close to each other, all within a cube with a size of 150 km) increases flexibility and redundancy.
|Satellite||Launch Date||Manufacturer||Model||Launch vehicle||Comments|
|ASTRA 19.2°E||Received in 44.3 million DTH satellite households|
|1H||June 18, 1999||Hughes||HS-601HP||Proton||As of March 2013: in position at 19.2°E but inactive|
|1KR||20 April 2006||Lockheed Martin||A2100||Atlas V (411)||Launched after the failure of Astra 1K.|
|1L||May 4, 2007||Lockheed Martin||A2100||Ariane 5 ECA||Replacement for 1E/2C; Ku and Ka bands|
|1M||Nov 6, 2008||EADS Astrium||Eurostar E3000||Proton-M||Replacement for 1G and backup at 19.2°E. Started commercial service 20 January 2009|
|2B||September 14, 2000||Astrium||Eurostar E2000+||Ariane 5G||Originally launched to 28.2°E. Relocated to 19.2°E in February 2013  following launch of Astra 2F to 28.2°E.|
|2C||June 16, 2001||Hughes||HS-601HP||Proton||Initially deployed at 19.2°E pending launch of 1L, then at originally intended position of 28.2°E. Moved to 31.5°E (May 2009) to temporarily replace the failed Astra 5A. Moved back to 19.2°E (September 2010) pending arrival of Astra 2B from 28.2°E. Now expected to be moved back to 28.2°E.|
|ASTRA 28.2°E||Received in 12.8 million DTH satellite households|
|2A||August 30, 1998||Hughes||HS-601HP||Proton|
|2D||December 19, 2000||Hughes||HS-376HP||Ariane 5G||As of June 2013: in position at 28.2°E but inactive|
|1N||August 6, 2011||EADS Astrium||Eurostar E3000||Ariane 5 ECA||Started commercial service October 24, 2011|
|2F||September 28, 2012||EADS Astrium||Eurostar E3000||Ariane 5 ECA||Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2°E and provision of Ku-band DTH in West Africa and Ka-band in western Europe Began commercial operations on November 21, 2012.|
|ASTRA 23.5°E||Received in 2.6 million DTH satellite households|
|3A||March 29, 2002||Boeing||HS-376HP||Ariane 4L||Currently unused and in inclined orbit at 23.7°E|
|3B||May 21, 2010||EADS Astrium||Eurostar E3000||Ariane 5 ECA||Launch delayed for nearly two months due to launcher problems.|
|1D||November 1, 1994||Hughes||HS-601||Ariane 42P||Originally at 19.2°E. Used at 28.2°E, 23.5°E, 31.5°E and 1.8°E. Now at 23.5°E in inclined orbit|
|ASTRA 5°E||Received in 4.5 million DTH satellite households|
|4A||November 18, 2007||Lockheed Martin||A2100AX||Proton-M||Originally called Sirius 4|
|4B (now SES-5)||July 10, 2012||Space Systems/Loral||LS-1300||Proton-M||Originally Sirius 5, renamed to Astra 4B in 2010 and to SES-5 in 2011. Provides global C-band capacity and Ku-band for Sub-Saharan Africa and Nordic regions.|
|ASTRA 31.5°E||Received in 1.3 million DTH satellite households|
|1G||December 2, 1997||Hughes||HS-601HP||Proton-K||Power problems, now max 20 transponders. Moved from 19.2°E to 23.5°E February 2009 following launch of Astra 1M. Then to 31.5°E (July 2010) following launch of Astra 3B.|
|OTHER POSITIONS (OCCASIONAL USE)|
|1C||May 12, 1993||Hughes||HS-601||Ariane 42L||Originally at 19.2°E. Used at 5°E. Now unused at 2.0°E in inclined orbit.|
|1E||October 19, 1995||Hughes||HS-601||Ariane 42L||Originally at 19.2°E. Used at 23.5°E pending launch of Astra 3B. Used at 5°E September 2010, pending launch of Astra 4B/SES-4, then moved April 2012 to 108.2°E for occasional use. As of June 2013, in inclined orbit at 108.2°E with no traffic.|
|1F||April 8, 1996||Hughes||HS-601||Proton-K||Moved in August 2009 to 51°E. Moved in May 2010 to 55°E.|
|NO LONGER IN OPERATION|
|1A||December 11, 1988||GE AstroSpace||GE-4000||Ariane 44LP||The first Astra satellite. Now retired in graveyard orbit.|
|1B||March 2, 1991||GE AstroSpace||GE-5000||Ariane 44LP||Acquired from GE Americom (Satcom K3). Now retired in graveyard orbit.|
|1K||November 26, 2002||Alcatel Space||Spacebus 3000B3S||Proton||Launched to 19.2°E but failed to reach geostationary orbit, and intentionally de-orbited on December 10, 2002.|
|5A||November 12, 1997||Alcatel Space||Spacebus 3000 B2||Ariane 44L||Formerly known as Sirius 2. Moved to 31.5°E and renamed Astra 5A on April 29, 2008. Failed in-orbit January 16, 2009|
|2E||Due Q2 2013||EADS Astrium||Eurostar E3000||Ariane 5 ECA||Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2°E|
|5B||Due Q3 2013||EADS Astrium||Eurostar E3000||Ariane 5 ECA||To add new capacity and replace existing craft at 31.5°E|
|2G||Due Q1 2014||EADS Astrium||Eurostar E3000||Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2°E|
Manufacture and launch
Astra satellites have been designed by Boeing Satellite Systems (formerly Hughes Space and Communications), EADS Astrium, Alcatel Space, and Lockheed Martin. The Astra satellites within a family are not identical, for example of the Astra 2 satellites; 2A and 2C are BSS 601HPs, 2B is an Astrium Eurostar E2000+ and 2D is a BSS 376.
The satellites have been launched by Arianespace rockets from Kourou, French Guiana, International Launch Services Proton rockets from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and ILS Atlas rockets from Cape Canaveral, USA. The satellites are launched into an elliptical "temporary transfer orbit" from where they use onboard propulsion to reach their final circular geostationary orbits, at nearly 36,000 kilometres (22,000 mi) altitude. Proton rockets fitted with a fourth stage propulsion unit are capable of launching the satellites several thousand kilometres higher (at the closest point of the elliptical orbit) than Ariane rockets. As a result most satellites launched in this way have to use less fuel to reach their geostationary orbit, increasing their lifetime.
Sirius and Astra 4A
The Sirius series of satellites (not connected with the North American Sirius Satellite Radio service) was started in 1993 with the purchase of the BSB Marcopolo 1 satellite (renamed Sirius 1) by Nordic Satellite AB (NSAB) for direct to home broadcasts to the Nordic and Baltic regions from the 5° east orbital position. Subsequent satellites launched to this location include Sirius 2 (1997), Sirius 3 (1998) and Sirius 4 (2007) and the position’s coverage has been expanded to include Eastern Europe and Africa.
In 2000, SES (then SES Astra) bought the 50% shareholding in NSAB owned by Teracom and Tele Danmark and in 2003 increased that holding to 75%, renaming the company SES Sirius AB. In 2008 Astra acquired further shares to take its shareholding in SES Sirius to 90% and in March 2010 took full control of the company. In June 2010, the affiliate company was renamed SES Astra and the Sirius 4 satellite renamed Astra 4A.
The Astra 4A designation was originally given in 2005 to part of the NSS-10 craft (33 transponders) owned by another subsidiary of SES, SES New Skies, and positioned at 37.5° west for broadcast, data, and telecommunications into Africa, and in 2007 to part of the Sirius 4 satellite (six transponders of the FSS Africa beam) owned and operated by SES Sirius. From June 2010, the Astra 4A designation has applied to the entire satellite previously known as Sirius 4.
Astra 1K, the largest commercial communications satellite ever built at the time, was ordered by SES in 1997. It was launched by Proton rocket on November 26, 2002. The rocket lifted off as planned and reached its parking orbit at which point the final stage of the rocket was to initiate a second burn to transfer the satellite to its geostationary orbit. This did not occur and the satellite was released into the parking orbit, making it unusable. The only way to recover the satellite would have been the use of a Space Shuttle, however this was rejected. On December 10, 2002 SES instructed Alcatel Space (the manufacturer) and the French Space Agency CNES to deorbit the satellite, it broke up on re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.
On January 16, 2009 Astra 5A at 31.5° east "experienced a technical anomaly leading to the end of the spacecraft’s mission" some four years ahead of the spacecraft's expected end of life. Traffic carried by the satellite (especially channels for German cable service, Kabel Deutschland) was transferred to Astra 23.5°E. In March 2009, SES (then SES Astra) announced that in April, the Astra 2C satellite was to be moved from the 28.2° east position to 31.5° east to temporarily take over Astra 5A's mission until Astra 3B is launched to 23.5° east, when another craft currently there can be released to 31.5° east. The move of Astra 2C was started in May and completed on May 11 with the first transponders coming into use at the new position in the subsequent two weeks.
At the end of 2011, Astra satellite broadcasts were received in over 142 million households in Europe; 61.7 million households received Astra services via a direct-to-home dish. Another 66.1 million households received Astra services via a cable headend, and 14.6 million households received Astra services via an IPTV network.
The Astra satellite constellation was broadcasting 200 high definition TV channels. 23.45 million households watched high definition TV channels via Astra satellites.
In all, 57% of all European TV homes receive TV from Astra satellite; 73% of all European homes that receive satellite TV, receive TV from Astra satellites; and 80% of all homes that receive HD satellite TV, receive TV from Astra satellites.
- SES S.A. (operator)
- SES Astra (previous operator)
- High Above (book)
- SES Platform Services
- Solaris Mobile
- Astra Digital Radio
- SES Sirius
- SES New Skies
- SES Americom
- List of broadcast satellites
- "New logo and brand identity presented at IBC in Amsterdam" (Press release). SES. September 9, 2011.
- "SES OPERATES UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE" (Press release). SES. May 2, 2011.
- "ASTRA INCREASES REACH OVER ALL PLATFORMS" (Press release). SES Astra. March 23, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- Bains, Geoff "The Failsafe Family" What Satellite & Digital TV April, 2012 pp29
- SES satellite monitor: European reach 2012 SES brochure. March 2012
- Astra 1H in lyngsat.com SatTracker Accessed March 27, 2013
- "New ASTRA 1M Satellite Ready For Operation" (Press release). SES ASTRA. January 20, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- Astra 2B in lyngsat.com SatTracker Accessed February 15, 2013
- Our global satellite fleet SES booklet November 2012 fleet plan for 2015. Accessed February 15, 2013
- Astra 2D in SES fleet information Accessed June 3, 2013
- "New SES Satellite ASTRA 1N Operational" (Press release). SES. October 24, 2011.
- "Ariane 5 launches Astra 2F" (Press release). Astrium. September 30, 2012.
- "SES Orders Four New Satellites From ASTRIUM" (Press release). SES ASTRA. November 30, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- ASTRA 2F arrives at the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou August 23, 2012 SES blog. Accessed August 26, 2012
- "SES’ ASTRA 2F SATELLITE STARTS OPERATIONS" (Press release). SES. November 21, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
- "ASTRA 3B SATELLITE SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED" (Press release). SES ASTRA. May 22, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- Astra 1C in SES fleet information Accessed June 3, 2013
- Astra 1E in SES fleet information Accessed June 3, 2013
- http://www.satlaunch.net/2011/10/astra-2e-coverage-footprint-maps.html Astra 2E Coverage Maps Retrieved December 24, 2011
- "Upcoming Launches". SES. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
- http://www.satlaunch.net/2011/11/astra-5b-provisional-coverages.html Astra 5B Coverage Maps Retrieved December 24, 2011
- http://www.satlaunch.net/2011/05/astra-2g-coverage-maps.html Astra 2G Coverage Maps Retrieved December 24, 2011
- "SES ASTRA TAKES FULL OWNERSHIP OF SES SIRIUS" (Press release). SES Astra. March 5, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- "SES SIRIUS BECOMES SES ASTRA" (Press release). SES Astra. June 22, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- "SES Global Africa completes first successful year in African business" (Press release). SES ASTRA. February 17, 2006. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- "SES ASTRA Announces End Of ASTRA 5A Spacecraft Mission" (Press release). SES ASTRA. January 16, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- "SES To Move ASTRA 2C Satellite To 31.5 Degrees East To Support Development Of New Orbital Position" (Press release). SES Astra. March 10, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- Astra 2C arrived at 31.5 East. LyngSat. Retrieved June 1, 2009
- OnAstra - Official consumers/viewers' site
- SES fleet information and map
- SES guide to receiving Astra satellites
- SES guide to channels broadcasting on Astra satellites
- Lyngsat frequency/channel list.
- SatcoDX frequency/channel list
- Astra 1M Ku-band Wide Beam footprint(s) at SatBeams
- Astra 1M Ku-band Europe Beam footprint(s) at SatBeams
- Astra 1L Ku-band FSS Beam footprint(s) at SatBeams
- Astra 1KR Ku-band Europe Beam footprint(s) at SatBeams
- Astra analogue satellite Promo Video clips - Orbitalzone.Com
- ASTRA2Connect website
- SES Techcom Services - Official site
- Solaris Mobile website