Thales Alenia Space is finishing tests on the final four satellites it is building for the O3b constellation that will allow SES to deliver high bandwidth to cruise ships.
Three of these satellites are currently in Thales Alenia’s facility in Rome, Italy, being prepared for transport to Arianespace’s launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. Final tests were underway on the fourth O3b satellite when Maritime Digitalisation & Communications visited the facility on 14 December.
The tests are scheduled to be completed at the end of January, when Thales Alenia project manager Gerome Verzat said the satellites will be flown from Rome to Kourou.
After their arrival in Kourou in the beginning of February, the satellites will be scheduled for launch in March 2019.
SES executive vice president for technology Stewart Sanders said the new quartet of satellites will join 16 existing satellites that is already providing high-throughput communications to cruise ships to complete the 20-satellite constellation.
The satellites sit in a medium Earth orbit (MEO) and provide fast bandwidth to passengers and crew on cruise ships over Ka-band frequencies.
To facilitate reception of information over these bands of radio frequency, cruise ships need to have installed multiple tri-band and dual-band antennas.
Mr Sanders said the constellation provides fast internet access for passengers and crew on ships operated by Carnival, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises.
MEO satellites have lower latency than geostationary earth orbit (GEO) satellites that SES and others operate worldwide, because MEO satellites are orbiting closer to the Earth than GEO.
However, MEO satellites can only serve a limited range of lattitudes due to their equatorial plane orbital position and angle of beams.
Mr Sanders said the addition of the final four satellites to the constellation should extend the coverage to higher latitudes of the northern and southern hemispheres to around 55˚.