Astra (satellite)

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The Astra brand logo

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.

At the time of the launch of the first Astra satellite, Astra 1A in 1988, the satellite's operator was known as Société Européenne des Satellites. 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, which by this time also operated other satellite families such as AMC, and NSS.[1][2]

Astra satellites broadcast nearly 2,400 digital television and radio channels via five main satellite orbital positions to households across Europe and North Africa.[3] 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[4]) increases flexibility and redundancy.

Satellite Launch Date Manufacturer Model Launch vehicle Comments
ASTRA 19.2°E Received in 116 million households[5]
1KR April 20, 2006 Lockheed Martin A2100 Atlas V (411) Launched after the failure of Astra 1K. Broadcast 28 transponders.
1L May 4, 2007 Lockheed Martin A2100 Ariane 5 ECA Replacement for 1E/2C; Ku and Ka bands. Broadcast 30 transponders and 14 transponder on Ka band
1M November 6, 2008 Astrium (now Airbus D&S) Eurostar E3000 Proton-M Replacement for 1G and backup at 19.2°E. Started commercial service 20 January 2009[6] Broadcast 28 transponders.
1N August 6, 2011 Astrium (now Airbus D&S) Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA Started commercial service October 24, 2011[7] Broadcast 34 transponders.
ASTRA 28.2°E Received in 48 million households[5]
2E September 30, 2013[8] Astrium (now Airbus D&S) Eurostar E3000 Proton Breeze M Started commercial service on February 1, 2014[9] Broadcast 20 transponders on UK spot beam and 26 transponders on European beam.
2F September 28, 2012[10] Astrium (now Airbus D&S) Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2°E[11] and provision of Ku-band DTH in West Africa and Ka-band in western Europe[12] Started commercial service on November 21, 2012.[13] Broadcast 6 transponders on UK spot beam, 26 transponders on European beam 3 transponders on West Africa spot beam and 1 transponder on Middle East spot beam.
2G December 27, 2014[14] Airbus D&S Eurostar E3000 Proton Breeze M Rolling capacity replacement at 28.2°E[11] Tested at 21.0°E and 43.5°E before moving to 28.2°E in June 2015[15] Started commercial service on June 1, 2015. Broadcast 7 transponders on UK spot beam and 17 transponders on European beam.
ASTRA 23.5°E Received in 33 million households[5]
3B May 21, 2010 Astrium (now Airbus D&S) Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA Launch delayed for nearly two months due to launcher problems.[16]
ASTRA 5°E Received in 48 million households[5]
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 14 million households[5]
2B September 14, 2000 Astrium (now Airbus D&S) Eurostar E2000+ Ariane 5G Originally launched to 28.2°E. Relocated to 19.2°E in February 2013 [17] following launch of Astra 2F to 28.2°E. In February 2014, moved east again, to 31.5°E.
5B March 22, 2014[18] Airbus D&S Eurostar E3000 Ariane 5 ECA To add new capacity and replace existing craft at 31.5°E[11] Entered commercial service on June 2, 2014[18]
1D November 1, 1994 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42P Positioned at 47.2°W
Originally at 19.2°E. Used at 28.2°E, 23.5°E, 31.5°E, 1.8°E and 52.2°E. Started moving west in February 2014 to arrive at 67.5°W in June 2014.[19] In summer 2015 moved to 47.2°W, near SES' NSS806[20]
1F April 8, 1996 Hughes HS-601 Proton-K Positioned at 44.5°E
Originally launched to 19.2°E. Moved in August 2009 to 51°E. Moved in May 2010 to 55°E.Moved in March 2015 to 44.5°E.[21]
1G December 2, 1997 Hughes HS-601HP Proton-K Positioned at 60°E
Power problems, now max 20 transponders. Originally launched to 19.2°E. Moved to 23.5°E February 2009 following launch of Astra 1M. Then to 31.5°E (July 2010) following launch of Astra 3B. Moved east in summer 2014 to 60°E[22]
1H June 18, 1999 Hughes HS-601HP Proton Positioned at 47.5°W
Originally launched to 19.2°E. Moved in June 2013 to 52.2°E[23] to establish SES' commercialization of the MonacoSat position.[24] Returned in 2014 to 19.2°E.[25] Started moving west in May 2014 arriving at 67.5°W in mid-August 2014.[26] Moved in May 2015 to 47.5°W.[27]
2A August 30, 1998 Hughes HS-601HP Proton Positioned at 28.2°E
Originally launched to 28.2°E. Now in same position but inactive.[28]
2C June 16, 2001 Hughes HS-601HP Proton Positioned at 60.5°E
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, then back to 19.2°E (September 2010). Returned to 28.2°E (April 2014) and then in August 2015 moved to 60.5°E.[29]
2D December 19, 2000 Hughes HS-376HP Ariane 5G Positioned at 57°E
Originally launched to 28.2°E. Ceased regular use in February 2013 and positioned, inactive, at 28.0°E[30] until June 2015. Then moved west to be stationed at Astra 5°E in July 2015.[31] In October 2015 moved to 57°E.[32]
3A March 29, 2002 Boeing HS-376HP Ariane 4L Moving east
Originally launched to 23.5°E. Moved to 177°W in November 2013, unused and in inclined orbit alongside NSS 9.[33]Currently moving east at approximately 1.5°/day.[34]
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.
1C May 12, 1993 Hughes HS-601 Ariane 42L Originally launched to 19.2°E. Used at 5°E. Unused and in inclined orbit at 72°W (summer 2014)[19] 1.2°W (September 2014)[35] 40°W (November 2014).[36] From February 2015, continuously moving west at approx 5.2°/day.[37]
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 where, as of November 2013, in inclined orbit.[38] Moved in February 2014 to 31.5°E pending launch of Astra 5B.[39] Returned to 23.5°E in February 2015. From June 2015, continuously moving west at approx 5.4°/day.[40]
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

Manufacture and launch[edit]

Astra satellites have been designed by Boeing Satellite Systems (formerly Hughes Space and Communications), Airbus Defence and Space (formerly 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, Florida, 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[edit]

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.[41] In June 2010, the affiliate company was renamed SES Astra and the Sirius 4 satellite renamed Astra 4A.[42]

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,[43] 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"[44] 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.[45] The move of Astra 2C was started in May and completed on May 11[46] with the first transponders coming into use at the new position in the subsequent two weeks.

Broadcasting statistics[edit]

At the end of 2014, Astra satellite broadcasts were received in 154 million households in Europe; over 64 million households received Astra services via a direct-to-home (DTH) dish, 47 million homes receiving HD broadcasts. Germany is the largest market for DTH via Astra with 18 million homes.[47]

In all, 35% of all European TV households receive DTH satellite TV, 27% receive cable TV, 11% receive IPTV, and 27% receive terrestrial broadcasts. With provision via DTH, cable and IPTV, 60% of European TV homes receive TV from Astra satellites. 71% of all European homes that receive satellite TV, receive TV from Astra satellites; and 81% of all homes that receive HD satellite TV, receive TV from Astra satellites.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New logo and brand identity presented at IBC in Amsterdam" (Press release). SES. September 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ "SES OPERATES UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE" (Press release). SES. May 2, 2011. 
  3. ^ "ASTRA INCREASES REACH OVER ALL PLATFORMS" (Press release). SES Astra. March 23, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ Bains, Geoff "The Failsafe Family" What Satellite & Digital TV April, 2012 pp29
  5. ^ a b c d e f SES Satellite Monitors 2015 - Household Reach March 2015. Accessed March 27, 2015
  6. ^ "New ASTRA 1M Satellite Ready For Operation" (Press release). SES ASTRA. January 20, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ "New SES Satellite ASTRA 1N Operational" (Press release). SES. October 24, 2011. 
  8. ^ "ASTRA 2E successfully launched" (Press release). SES. September 30, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  9. ^ "SES' ASTRA 2E SATELLITE STARTS OPERATIONS" (Press release). SES. January 31, 2014. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ "SES SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHES ASTRA 2F SATELLITE" (Press release). SES. 1 October 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c "SES Orders Four New Satellites From ASTRIUM" (Press release). SES ASTRA. November 30, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  12. ^ ASTRA 2F arrives at the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou August 23, 2012 SES blog. Accessed August 26, 2012
  13. ^ "SES' ASTRA 2F SATELLITE STARTS OPERATIONS" (Press release). SES. November 21, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  14. ^ "ASTRA 2G SATELLITE ROARS INTO ORBIT" (Press release). SES. December 28, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  15. ^ accessed June 28, 2015
  16. ^ "ASTRA 3B SATELLITE SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED" (Press release). SES ASTRA. May 22, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  17. ^ Astra 2B in SatTracker Accessed February 15, 2013
  18. ^ a b "SES: ASTRA 5B SATELLITE GOES LIVE AT 31.5 DEGREES EAST" (Press release). SES. June 2, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed August 2, 2014
  20. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed October 26, 2015
  21. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed March 27, 2015
  23. ^ Astra 1H in SES website Accessed September 30, 2013
  24. ^ "SES AND SSI-MONACO SIGN MONACOSAT COLLABORATION AGREEMENT" (Press release). SES. July 4, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  25. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions - Astra 1H Accessed February 27, 2014
  26. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed August 27, 2014
  27. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed July 17, 2014
  28. ^ Astra 2A at 28.2°E Lyngsat Accessed March 25, 2015
  29. ^ Astra 2C at 60.5°E Lyngsat Accessed September 27, 2015
  30. ^ Astra 2D in SES fleet information Accessed July 26, 2013
  31. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed July 22, 2015
  32. ^ Geostationary Satellites Accessed December 27, 2015
  33. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions - Astra 3A Accessed February 27, 2014
  34. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed July 4, 2016
  35. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed September 30, 2014
  36. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed November 30, 2014
  37. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed April 26, 2016
  38. ^ Astra 1E in SES fleet information Accessed November 29, 2013
  39. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions - Astra 1E Accessed February 27, 2014
  40. ^ Real Time Satellite Tracking And Predictions Accessed April 27, 2016
  41. ^ "SES ASTRA TAKES FULL OWNERSHIP OF SES SIRIUS" (Press release). SES Astra. March 5, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  42. ^ "SES SIRIUS BECOMES SES ASTRA" (Press release). SES Astra. June 22, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  43. ^ "SES Global Africa completes first successful year in African business" (Press release). SES ASTRA. February 17, 2006. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  44. ^ "SES ASTRA Announces End Of ASTRA 5A Spacecraft Mission" (Press release). SES ASTRA. January 16, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  45. ^ "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. 
  46. ^ Astra 2C arrived at 31.5 East. LyngSat. Retrieved June 1, 2009
  47. ^ "SES REACHES 312 MILLION TV HOMES WORLDWIDE, 1.1 BILLION PEOPLE" (Press release). SES. March 17, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015. 

External links[edit]