LONDON – A special aircraft landed at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida last weekend – the Airbus BelugaST (A300-600ST).
It delivered the Airbus-built HOTBIRD 13G satellite for Eutelsat. This happened a few hours after its twin, HOTBIRD 13F, was successfully launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The spacecraft are the first members of the new “Eurostar Neo” family of Airbus telecommunications satellites, based on a next-generation platform and technologies developed with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA), and others, including the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA).
A first for Beluga since 2009
This milestone operation also marks the first time since 2009 that the Beluga has visited the USA – when it transported the International Space Station European module “Tranquility”.
For this latest mission, the Beluga operated on a fuel blend of 30% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for its departure flight from Toulouse – reflecting Airbus’ decarbonisation ambitions.
Airbus Space Systems statement
“It is a true honour to consecutively showcase two satellites for our customer Eutelsat: two pieces of European technology at the iconic Kennedy Space Center,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus.
“The ability of Airbus to field an autonomous European solution is underscored by the transportation of our satellites in the unique Beluga aircraft – a true example of pan-Airbus synergies!”
Once they reach their orbital position, these two satellites, with more efficient power and thermal control systems than their predecessors, will be able to broadcast more than 1,000 television channels across Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East.
They will also enhance Eutelsat’s ability to provide connectivity for more than 135 million people, as they replace three Eutelsat satellites currently in orbit.
Beluga – when size matters
With the advent of the new BelugaXL, based on the larger A330-200 platform, the existing BelugaST fleet is progressively being made available for outsized freight transport services globally.
Since the launch of the new Airbus Beluga Transport service in January, the BelugaST has performed missions for various customers worldwide.
While Airbus’ new-generation Beluga XL oversized airlifter may resemble its Beluga ST predecessor, several key physical changes will bring additional capabilities to the movement of major aircraft sections and components within the company’s production network.
The Beluga XL, which is based on today’s A330 jetliner, has its enlarged fuselage “bubble” section that is six metres longer and one metre wider than on the Beluga ST – an aircraft derived from Airbus’ earlier-production A300-600.
With this bigger “bubble,” the Beluga XL will be able to carry larger sections of Airbus aircraft between European production sites and to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany – including a full wing-set for the A350 XWB’s latest A350-1000 version.