Airbus basks in double glory as Beluga returns to the US after 13-year hiatusThe BelugaST with its HOTBIRD13 payload
European aerospace giant Airbus is enjoying a moment in the sun, following the arrival in Cape Canaveral, of its the Airbus BelugaST, carrying a payload of the Airbus-built HOTBIRD 13G satellite for Eutelsat. The delivery over the weekend, happened shortly after the successful launch into space of HOTBIRD 13F, the first of Hotbird pair, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The two satellites are the first members of the new constellation of “Eurostar Neo” family of Airbus telecommunications satellites, that will boost Eutelsat’s broadcast capacity to more than 1,000 television channels across a footprint covering Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East.
“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,” he added.
The pair of satellites, delivers more efficient power and thermal control systems than their predecessors.
Airbus says the hot birds, based on a next-generation platform and technologies developed with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA) and a diverse set of European tech companies, including the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA); will also enhance Eutelsat’s ability to provide connectivity for more than 135 million people, as they replace the current generation of Eutelsat satellites in orbit.
The event was a double celebration for Airbus because it also marked the first time since 2009 that the Beluga was touching down in the US. Back then, the European airframer’s specially-built and oddly-shaped freighter, delivered the International Space Station European module “Tranquility” for launch.
Airbus also used the occasion to highlight its sustainability credentials, by powering the Beluga with 30pc Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for its flight from Toulouse.
The airframer has replaced the first generation of the Beluga based on the A300-600ST platform, with its new BelugaXL, based on the larger A330-200 platform. This has freed the capacity available in the three-strong Beluga ST fleet, to commercial operations for outsized freight transport services globally.