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Comms satellite gets ready for launch

At a plant in Toulouse, France, workers put the finishing touches to a communications satellite that will help bring fast broadband to Europe and neighbouring areas in 2011
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By Nick Heath on
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1 of 6 EADS Astrium

In a hangar in the south of France, workers at EADS Astrium are putting the finishing touches to one of their latest satellites.

The plant in Toulouse has built about 40 satellites, which today circle the Earth providing television broadcasts, international communications and services to the military.

Earlier this month ZDNet UK's sister site silicon.com visited the EADS Astrium assembly hall to see the building of KA-SAT, a Eutelsat Communications satellite, which will bring fast broadband to Europe and neighbouring areas next year.

Here is KA-SAT without its outer casing, showing the cable feeds that will carry the signals and data to the satellite's antenna.

The satellite will be able to send and receive a total of 70Gbps, more than any other commercial satellite currently covering Europe.

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2 of 6 EADS Astrium

The satellite, seen here from the rear, will be launched in December this year.

A key use of KA-SAT will be to support a telephone, TV and 10Mbps internet service called Tooway, which will launch in continental Europe, the UK and neighbouring areas next year.

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3 of 6 EADS Astrium

Here are some of the plasma thrusters that will propel KA-SAT through space by expelling ions of xenon gas at high speed.

KA-SAT, which is about the same size as a small truck, is carrying enough fuel to stay in its correct orbit for 16 years.

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4 of 6 EADS Astrium

This is KA-SAT's solar array, which is 40 metres in span. It will be permanently oriented towards the sun to generate electricity for the satellite.

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5 of 6 EADS Astrium

Before launch, KA-SAT is subjected to a number of tests at the EADS Astrium facility.

In this test the satellite is placed on a vibrating platform to ensure it can withstand the conditions it will experience being carried into orbit on a rocket.

The satellite will also be placed inside a thermal vacuum test chamber. In the chamber it will be cooled to -170°C and heated to 120°C to simulate the extremes of temperature found in space.

The satellite's ability to send and receive signals from orbit is also tested in the RF test chamber, a huge room covered in blue foam spikes to absorb excess radiation.

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6 of 6 EADS Astrium

Another shot of part of KA-SAT being fitted to its propulsion system. The gold foil is the insulation that protects the satellite from extremes of temperature in space.

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