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O3b satellite constellation.png
Rendering of O3b MEO satellite coverage areas and visibility around the equator.
Mission typeInternet access
OperatorSES Networks
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerThales Alenia Space
Launch mass700 kg
Start of mission
Launch date25 June 2013 (UTC) (2013-06-25Z) (four)
10 July 2014 (UTC) (2014-07-10Z) (four)
18 December 2014 (UTC) (2014-12-18Z) (four)
9 March 2018 (UTC) (2018-03-09Z) (four)
4 April 2019 (UTC) (2019-04-04Z) (four)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit
RegimeMedium Earth orbit
Perigee altitude8063 km
Period287.9 minutes

O3b is a satellite constellation in Medium Earth orbit (MEO) owned and operated by SES, and designed to provide low-latency broadband connectivity to remote locations for mobile network operators and internet service providers, maritime, aviation, and government and defence. It is often referred to as O3b MEO to distinguish these satellites from SES's forthcoming O3b mPOWER constellation.[1]

O3b originally stood for "other three billion", or the other three billion people at the time that did not have stable internet access, and the constellation was initially built, owned and operated by O3b Networks, which became a wholly owned subsidiary of SES in 2016[2] and ownership and operation of the constellation passed to SES Networks, a division of SES. The O3b MEO constellation began offering service in March 2014.[3]


Initially planned to launch in 2010,[4] the first four O3b satellites reached orbit on a Soyuz-2 / Fregat-MT launch vehicle by Arianespace on 25 June 2013.[5][6] After discovering a hardware defect in the initial satellites, O3b postponed the planned September 2013 launch of four additional satellites so repairs could be made.[7] The second four satellites were launched by the same type of rocket from the Space Center in French Guiana, on 10 July 2014[8] and the O3b system started full commercial service on 1 September 2014.[9]

The third launch of four took place in December 2014, bringing the satellite constellation to 12 satellites.[10] Four years later, four additional satellites were launched on 9 March 2018 on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Centre Spatial Guyanais.[11] In December 2018, Thales Alenia Space said that tests on the final four O3b satellites would be completed by the end of January 2019[12] and the four satellites were successfully launched on 4 April 2019.[13]

In 2010, operators in the Cook Islands,[14] Pakistan[15] and Nigeria[16] were among the first to prebook capacity on the O3b constellation to serve their respective markets.

In 2010, O3b announced the selection of Europe Media Port to be the first provider of Gateway Teleport services for O3b's global network[17] and a contract with Viasat for the production and installation of Ka-band infrastructure.[18]

In July 2014, SES Government Solutions (now SES Space & Defense), a subsidiary of (then O3b investor, now owner) SES, received approval to offer O3b services on their General Services Administration (GSA) schedule allowing SES GS to be the first distribution partner to offer O3b capability directly to the U.S. Government.[19]

In November 2014, MS Quantum of the Seas became the first cruise ship to provide fast internet to guests through O3b Networks. The service is branded "Voom" by its cruise line, Royal Caribbean International and it was subsequently rolled out to every ship in their fleet.[20][21]

In August 2015, SES subsidiary, SES Government Solutions (now SES Space & Defense) agreed on a one-year contract with US government scientific agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to supply O3b services and ground equipment to the National Weather Service Office in American Samoa, expanding NOAA's broadband connectivity outside the continental United States to provide weather, water, and climate data, and forecasts and warnings to American Samoa.[22]

In August 2016, SES Government Solutions (now SES Space & Defense) announced a contract to provide O3b's high throughput, low latency satellite communications for a US Department of Defense end-user. The agreement is for a 365 days-per-year service consisting of a full-duplex symmetric 155 Mbit/s link, gateway access, a transportable 2.4 metre terminal, terrestrial backhaul, and maintenance and installation services, with a latency of under 200 milliseconds per round trip. The contract also provides for additional capacity to meet surge requirements.[23]

In September 2017, SES announced O3b mPOWER, the next generation of MEO satellites to expand the capacity of the existing O3b constellation of (then) 12 satellites. Initially seven O3b mPOWER satellites were ordered from Boeing for launch in 2021 to provide flexible and scalable, low-latency satellite-based networks with terabits of throughput.[24][25]

In June 2018, the US Department of Defense signed a single-award blanket purchase agreement with SES Government Solutions (now SES Space & Defense) for MEO high throughput, low latency satellite services including managed broadband services, gateway services, and monitoring and control services, to a maximum of US$516.7 million over a five-year period.[26]

In September 2019, SES became a Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute services partner to provide dedicated, private network connectivity from sea vessels, aircraft, and industrial or government sites anywhere in the world to the Azure cloud computing service, via both its geostationary satellites and O3b MEO satellites.[27]

In August 2020 SES contracted Boeing to build four O3b mPOWER satellites in addition to the seven ordered in 2017. SpaceX was contracted for additional launches, to make four launches for the whole O3b mPOWER constellation, expected in 2021–2024.[28][29]

In September 2020, SES and Microsoft announced that SES was the medium Earth orbit connectivity partner for the Microsoft Azure Orbital ground station service that enables network operators to control their satellite operations and capacity from within the Azure cloud computing service. Under their agreement, SES and Microsoft will jointly invest in Azure Orbital ground stations for the MEO and Earth Observation segments, initially in the United States, which will be installed and managed by SES. Also, satellite telemetry, tracking and control systems and data ground stations for the forthcoming O3b mPOWER satellites will be located with Microsoft's Azure edge sites to provide O3b mPOWER customers with "one-hop" access to Azure cloud services.[30][31]

In October 2020, international charity hospital ships provider, Mercy Ships announced it will be using SES's Signature Maritime connectivity services via O3b satellites to provide remote viewing and diagnosis, and remote training on board the Global Mercy, the world's largest civilian hospital ship.[32]

In February 2021, SES announced two contracts with the US Department of Defense as part of the June 2018 blanket purchase agreement. One is for a portable O3b service to support forward-deployed military personnel[33] and the second to provide O3b mission-critical communications without using a commercial gateway in remote locations in Southwest Asia, managed and controlled from an SES Network Operations Center.[34]

Also in February 2021, SES announced that its Signature Cruise broadband connectivity via O3b will be used on Virgin Voyages' latest ships Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady to provide passengers with free fast onboard wi-fi internet access.[35]

In June 2021, SES joined the Amazon Web Services Direct Connect Delivery Partner programme, using the O3b constellation (and SES' fleet of geostationary satellites) to provide customers access to AWS cloud-based applications and services from locations around the world with limited or no terrestrial communications, and to provide the cloud provider a backup network if their infrastructure fails.[36]

In August 2021, Microsoft became the first cloud provider customer for O3b, with Microsoft buying managed satellite connectivity services from SES for the Microsoft Azure cloud computing service. Microsoft is initially using the existing first generation O3b satellites, before upgrading to the faster broadband speeds from the forthcoming O3b mPOWER satellites when they come into operation in 2022.[37] (In November 2022, SES announced that the start of the O3b mPOWERservice was delayed until Q3 2023).[38]

In December 2021, SES's wholly owned subsidiary SES Government Solutions (now SES Space & Defense) announced that the US Army has conducted trials of commercial satellite constellations in multiple orbits, including the O3b satellite system, as part of the effort to establish Multi-Domain Operations.[39]

In December 2021, Honeywell, Hughes Network Systems and SES demonstrated multi-orbit high-speed airborne connectivity for military customers using Honeywell's JetWave MCX terminal and a Hughes HM-series modem, and SES satellites in both medium Earth orbit (MEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO). The tests achieved full duplex data rates of more than 40 megabits per second via a number of SES' (GEO) satellites including GovSat-1, and the O3b satellite constellation, with connections moving between GEO/MEO links in under 30 sec.[40]

In May 2022, in conjunction with Kazakhstani mobile network operator, Kcell, SES used the O3b satellite constellation to demonstrate that MEO satellites could be used to provide high-speed 3G and 4G connectivity to remote regions of Kazakhstan for reliable video calling, conferencing and streaming, and web browsing, with a latency five times lower than on the existing platform based on geostationary orbit satellites.[41][42]

On 16 December 2022, the first two of SES's next generation MEO satellite constellation, O3b mPOWER were successfully launched. The satellites will take approximately six months to reach their designated medium Earth orbit and for commissioning, and the O3b mPower service is expected to begin operations alongside the existing O3b constellation in Q3 2023.[43]


The satellites are deployed in a circular orbit along the equator at an altitude of 8,063 km (5,010 mi) (medium Earth orbit) at a velocity of approximately 11,755 mph (18,918 km/h), each making 5 orbits a day.[44] Due to problems with a component of the first four satellites launched, three of those four have been placed on standby.[45]

Each satellite is equipped with twelve fully steerable Ka-band antennas (two beams for gateways, ten beams for remotes) that use 4.3 GHz of spectrum (2 × 216 MHz per beam) with a proposed throughput of 1.6 Gbit/s per beam (800 Mbit/s per direction),[46] resulting in a total capacity of 16 Gbit/s per satellite. Each beam's footprint measures 700 km (430 mi) in diameter.[47] O3b claims a mouth-to-ear one-way latency of 179 milliseconds for voice communication, and an end-to-end round-trip latency of 140 ms for data services. The maximum throughput per TCP connection is 2.1 Mbit/s.[48] For maritime applications, O3b claims a round-trip latency of 140 ms, and connectivity speeds of over 500 Mbit/s.[49]

The satellites are powered by gallium arsenide solar arrays and lithium-ion batteries[50] and weigh approximately 700 kg (1,500 lb) each.[5]

The satellites were constructed by Thales Alenia Space, a division of Thales Group.[51] The first satellite (PFM) was built in the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center, while the rest of the constellation was assembled, integrated and tested in Thales Alenia Space Italy's Roman facilities.

In September 2017, SES announced the next generation of O3b satellites and placed an order for an initial seven from Boeing Satellite Systems using a new satellite platform based on Boeing's 702 line of scalable buses. Expected to launch in 2021, the O3b mPOWER constellation of medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites for broadband internet services will "be able to deliver anywhere from hundreds of megabits to 10 gigabits to any ship at sea" through 30,000 spot beams. Software-defined routing will direct traffic between the mPOWER MEO satellites and SES' geostationary fleet.[52] In August 2020, SES contracted Boeing to build four additional O3b mPOWER satellites and SpaceX was contracted for an additional two launches, to make four launches for the whole O3b mPOWER constellation in 2022–2024.[53][54][55][56]

List of satellites[edit]

Name NORAD ID Int'l Code Launch Date Launch Vehicle Period (min)
O3B PFM 39191 2013-031D 25 June 2013 Soyuz ST-B (VS05) 287.9
O3B FM2 39190 2013-031C 25 June 2013 Soyuz ST-B (VS05) 287.9
O3B FM3 40082 2014-038D 10 July 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS08) 287.9
O3B FM4 39189 2013-031B 25 June 2013 Soyuz ST-B (VS05) 287.9
O3B FM5 39188 2013-031A 25 June 2013 Soyuz ST-B (VS05) 287.9
O3B FM6 40080 2014-038B 10 July 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS08) 287.9
O3B FM7 40081 2014-038C 10 July 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS08) 287.9
O3B FM8 40079 2014-038A 10 July 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS08) 287.9
O3B FM9 40351 2014-083D 18 December 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS10) 287.9
O3B FM10 40348 2014-083A 18 December 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS10) 287.9
O3B FM11 40349 2014-083B 18 December 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS10) 287.9
O3B FM12 40350 2014-083C 18 December 2014 Soyuz ST-B (VS10) 287.9
O3B FM13 43234 2018-024D 9 March 2018 Soyuz ST-B (VS18) 287.9
O3B FM14 43233 2018-024C 9 March 2018 Soyuz ST-B (VS18) 287.9
O3B FM15 43231 2018-024A 9 March 2018 Soyuz ST-B (VS18) 287.9
O3B FM16 43232 2018-024B 9 March 2018 Soyuz ST-B (VS18) 287.9
O3B FM17 44114 2019-020C 4 April 2019 Soyuz ST-B (VS22) 287.9
O3B FM18 44115 2019-020D 4 April 2019 Soyuz ST-B (VS22) 287.9
O3B FM19 44113 2019-020B 4 April 2019 Soyuz ST-B (VS22) 287.9
O3B FM20 44112 2019-020A 4 April 2019 Soyuz ST-B (VS22) 287.9


Use of medium Earth orbit[edit]

O3b MEO is currently the only high-throughput satellite (HTS) system for internet services to use the medium Earth orbit; most other existing and proposed systems use satellites in either geosynchronous orbit (GEO) or low Earth orbit (LEO). Although previous satellite internet services primarily used geosynchronous satellites (SES has four geostationary HTS in orbit – Astra 2E, SES-12, SES-14 and SES-15), demand for increased bandwidth and for lower latency has shifted the focus for HTS to lower orbits.[58] The lower the altitude of the orbit, the closer the satellite is to the Earth and the lower the latency and path losses (enabling lower ground station and satellite power, and costs for the same throughput)[59] The propagation delay for a round-trip internet protocol transmission via a geosynchronous satellite can be over 550 ms, and such latency is the bane of digital connectivity, in particular for automated stock trades, hardcore gaming and Skype video chats.[60][61] So, many proposed non-geosynchronous satellite internet services have adopted a low Earth orbit of under 2000 km altitude[61] where latency can be as little 40ms,[62] and by 2018 more than 18,000 new LEO satellites had been proposed to launch by 2025.[63]

However, a lower orbit also has drawbacks; satellites move faster relative to the ground and can "see" a smaller area of the Earth, and so for continuous widespread access require a constellation of many satellites, with complex constellation management and tracking by the ground stations.[58][61] Medium Earth orbit, although higher in altitude than LEO is nevertheless much lower than geosynchronous orbit and so shares many of the advantages of LEO while reducing its drawbacks:[64][59][65][60]

  • Latency as low as 125ms – longer than LEO but substantial improvement over GEO satellites
  • Longer orbital period than LEO – a smaller constellation needed for continuous "visibility"
  • Cheaper and simpler telemetry, tracking and control systems than LEO
  • Higher "look angle" from the ground than LEOs
  • Longer service life expectancy than LEO satellites
  • Reduced Doppler shift problem than LEO
  • Less orbital overcrowding and space debris than LEO

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O3b MEO O3b section title page in SES.com. Accessed 26 May 2021
  2. ^ SES Completes Acquisition of 100% of O3b Networks, Business Wire, 1 August 2016, Accessed 26 April 2017
  3. ^ Wood, Lloyd; Lou, Yuxuan; Olusola, Opeoluwa (2014). "Revisiting elliptical satellite orbits to enhance the O3b constellation". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 67 (3): 110–118. arXiv:1407.2521. Bibcode:2014JBIS...67..110W.
  4. ^ [1] Archived 10 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine GBS to utilize O3b's low-latency network to augment broadband and WiMax services
  5. ^ a b "Soyuz Flight VS05 with four O3b networks satellites". Arianespace. 25 June 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  6. ^ "O3b's Satellites Launch Successfully". O3b. 25 June 2013. Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  7. ^ Delayed O3b Satellites Should be Ready for March Launch, SpaceNews, 1 November 2013, Retrieved 28 October 2020
  8. ^ "O3b Networks going operational with state-of-the-art satellite constellation to serve the other 3 billion". Archived from the original on 30 July 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  9. ^ "O3b Successfully Launches Four More Satellites to Complete Iniitial [sic] Constellation". Satellite Markets & Research. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  10. ^ Third quartet of satellites launched for O3b Networks Spaceflight Now, 19 December 2014, Retrieved 28 October 2020
  11. ^ Arianespace Soyuz ST-B launches latest O3b satellites, NASASpaceFlight.com, 9 March 2018, Retrieved 28 October 2020
  12. ^ Thales readies 4 satellites for O3b Advanced Television, 19 December 2018, Retrieved 28 October 2020
  13. ^ Four New Satellites Ride Into Space To Join Growing SES Constellation, SPACE.com, 4 April 2019, Retrieved 28 October 2020
  14. ^ [2] Archived 4 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine O3b Networks and Telecom Cook Islands Sign Long Term Agreement on Bandwidth Provision for Internet Connectivity
  15. ^ [3] Archived 10 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine Pak Datacom Limited signs exclusive national capacity agreement with O3b Networks to deploy high-speed internet to Pakistan
  16. ^ [4] Archived 10 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine O3b Networks signs deal with Netcom, Nigeria to provide fast and reliable connectivity to ships and offshore platforms
  17. ^ [5] Archived 4 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine O3b Selects Europe Media Port (EMP) as its First Gateway Teleport Operator for New High Capacity Data Network
  18. ^ Interview with Mark Rigolle, Chief Executive Officer, O3B Networks SatNews, 29 March 2010, Retrieved 28 October 2020
  19. ^ "SES Receives Approval from GSA to Sell O3b Services" (Press release). SES. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  20. ^ Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas Wows with Smart Ship Technology Conde Nast Traveller, 21 November 2014, Accessed 28 October 2020
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  26. ^ DoD signs five-year BPA with SES for medium Earth orbit satellite services Military Embedded Systems, 5 June 2018, Accessed 24 March 2021
  27. ^ SES extends reach of Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute Advanced Television 9 September 2019. Accessed 28 October 2020
  28. ^ "Boeing to Build Four Additional 702X Satellites for SES's O3b mPOWER Fleet". Boeing (Press release). 7 August 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2023.
  29. ^ SES taps SpaceX for two additional Falcon 9 launches Space News. 20 August 2020. Accessed 27 January 2023
  30. ^ Introducing Azure Orbital: Process satellite data at cloud-scale Microsoft, 22 September 2020, Accessed 28 October 2020
  31. ^ "SES Becomes Microsoft Azure Orbital Founding Connectivity Partner" (Press release). 22 September 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  32. ^ SES Provides Connectivity Services for Mercy Ships Via Satellite, 16 October 2020, Accessed 23 March 2021
  33. ^ Wins US DoD Maritime Deal for O3b Via Satellite, 19 February 2021, Accessed 24 March 2021
  34. ^ SES Wins Slew of European Public Broadcast Deals Via Satellite, 22 February 2021, Accessed 24 March 2021
  35. ^ Virgin invests in high-speed satellite communications Riviera, 24 February 2021, Accessed 24 March 2021
  36. ^ SES strengthens Amazon Web Services cloud partnership SpaceNews. 18 June 2021. Accessed 28 June 2021
  37. ^ O3b mPOWER get first cloud customer, on track for launch even as COVID-19 issues loom SpaceNews. 17 August 2021. Accessed 2 September 2021
  38. ^ SES eagerly awaiting the flexibility O3b mPower promises Space News. 11 November 2022. Accessed 3 December 2022
  39. ^ US Army Uses SES MEO Technology in Multi-Orbit Tests Via Satellite. 7 December 2021. Accessed 31 December 2021
  40. ^ Honeywell, SES, and Hughes Demonstrate MEO to GEO Satellite Switching for Military Customers Via Satellite. 20 December 2021. Accessed 31 January 2022
  41. ^ Kcell, SES demo O3b satellite-enabled remote mobile services Comms Update. 26 May 2022. Accessed 30 May 2022
  42. ^ "Kcell and SES Successfully Demonstrate Cellular Network connectivity in Kazakhstan" (Press release). SES. 25 May 2022. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  43. ^ SpaceX launches first pair of O3b mPower satellites SpaceNews. 16 December 2022. Accessed 27 December 2022
  44. ^ "iDirect's Interoperability with O3b's MEO Satellite System". 2008. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  45. ^ "O3B NETWORKS SATELLITES". Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  46. ^ "O3b Networks Presentation" (PDF). presentation. O3b Networks. 23 February 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  47. ^ "O3b website – Our technology". O3b Networks. Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  48. ^ "Why Latency Matters to Mobile Backhaul" (PDF). O3b Networks and Sofrecom. 18 April 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 November 2013.
  49. ^ "O3b Maritime" (PDF). O3b Networks. 18 June 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2012.
  50. ^ "O3b Networks: Space Vehicle". Archived from the original on 19 February 2009.
  51. ^ "O3b Networks: Advantage". Archived from the original on 3 March 2011.
  52. ^ SES building a 10-terabit O3b "mPOWER" constellation Space News 11 September 2017. Accessed 31 October 2017
  53. ^ "Boeing to Build Four Additional 702X Satellites for SES's O3b mPOWER Fleet" (Press release). Boeing. 7 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  54. ^ SES taps SpaceX for two additional Falcon 9 launches, SpaceNews, 20 August 2020, Accessed 20 August 2020
  55. ^ Top Satellite Launches to Watch in 2022 Via Satellite. 30 December 2021. Accessed 27 January 2022
  56. ^ "SES YTD 2021 Results" (PDF). SES S.A. 4 November 2021. p. 4. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  57. ^ "O3B Networks satellites". www.n2yo.com. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  58. ^ a b Large LEO satellite constellations: Will it be different this time? McKinsey & Company, 4 May 2020, Accessed 29 October 2020
  59. ^ a b LEO constellations and tracking challenges Satellite Evolution Group, September 2017, Accessed 30 October 2020
  60. ^ a b Real-Time Latency: Rethinking Remote Networks Archived 21 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine Telesat, February 2020, Accessed 31 October 2020
  61. ^ a b c LEO and MEO broadband constellations mega source of consternation SpaceNews, 13 March 2018, Accessed 29 October 2020
  62. ^ Low Earth Orbit satellites, improving latency OmniAccess, Accessed 29 October 2020
  63. ^ NSR Reports China's Ambitious Constellation of 300 Small Satellites in LEO SatNews, 8 March 2018, Accessed 30 October 2020
  64. ^ Satellites: LEO, MEO & GEO Atlanta RF, Accessed 29 October 2020
  65. ^ The Gravity of Space Debris Via Satellite. March 2019, Accessed 31 October 2020