The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research says its tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) group at its Satellite Applications Centre has so far supported an “unprecedented number” of satellite launches this year – 17 to date.
On 14 August the CSIR supported an Arianespace launch, which orbited two telecommunications satellites, primarily intended for television broadcast services: Superbird-7 for Japanese operator Space Communications Corporation, within the scope of a contract with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and AMC-21 for American operator SES AMERICOM, a company of the SES group.
The mission was carried out by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff was on at 5:44 pm local time in Kourou.
In its latest newsletter, the CSIR notes the TT&C group’s “ingenuity was tested when it came to supporting its first dual launch support”.
The CSIR was contracted to support both AMC-21 and Superbird-7. Following intensive efforts at the initial preparation phase, all manoeuvres were performed without any problems. “This is a great achievement and serves to prove our technical competency to the international space community,” said Tiaan Strydom, responsible for liaison with overseas clients.
On 6 September 2008 the GeoEye 1 spacecraft was successfully deployed in view of the CSIR’s Hartebeesthoek site from a Delta 2 to begin its mission as the world’s highest-resolution commercial eye-in-the-sky.
This follows the rocket launch at 18:50:57 Greenwich Mean Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, which put into orbit this earth-imaging satellite that promises to offer a sharper clarity than any private satellite launched before it.
Laura Maginnis of Boeing afterwards said that excellent quality data was received from all tracking stations. “Thanks to the AFSCN/MESA, HBK and and OTTR teams for an excellent support.”
HBK is the acronym for Hartebeesthoek, which is used internationally to identify the ground tracking station.
GeoEye is a polar-orbiting satellite, that will revisit any point on Earth once every three days or soonest. Although it stands two stories high and weighs more that two tons, it is designed to train its camera on multiple targets during a single orbital pass and rotate or swivel forward, backward or from side-to-side with robotic procession. This means that it can collect much more imagery during a single pass.
It will deliver images with a ground resolution of 0,41 m in the panchromatic or black-and-white mode. It will collect multispectral or colour imagery at 1,65 m resolution, a factor of two better than existing commercial satellites with four-band multispectral imaging capabilities.
According to Strydom, it’s not over yet, “We anticipate that we will be called upon to do at least another two launch supports from now until the end of the year.”