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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

All go for giant comms satellite


The six-tonne UK-built craft was carried aloft by a Zenit-3SL rocket at approximately 1345 GMT on Tuesday.

The launch had twice been postponed after a software glitch stopped the countdown sequence on Saturday.

Inmarsat-4 F2 is designed to improve broadband and 3G communications, principally in the Americas.

It is the second of three satellites; the first, which covers most of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Indian Ocean, was launched from Cape Canaveral in March.

This one will improve and extend communications across South America, most of North America, the Atlantic Ocean and part of the Pacific Ocean.

The two satellites will support the London-based sat-com Inmarsat company's global broadband network, BGan.

Their onboard technology is designed to allow people to set up virtual offices anywhere around the world via high-speed broadband connections and new 3G phone technology.

The satellites offer "broadband for a mobile planet", says Inmarsat chief operating officer Michael Butler. Those set to benefit include business travellers, disaster relief workers and journalists.

The spacecraft, each the size of a London bus, should continue functioning for about 15 years. They were built largely at the EADS-Astrium facilities in Stevenage and Portsmouth, UK.

The Inmarsat-4 F2 was launched from waters close to Kiritimati (Christmas Island) on the equator.

It used the innovative Sea Launch system, which employs a converted oil drilling platform as a launch pad. The pad is moved into position from its California base.

Sea Launch is a joint venture between American, Russian, Ukrainian and Norwegian companies.

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