1A sent to junk orbit Dec 2004. Farewell old friend

page updated 03 April 2009.

 

1A was SES Astra's first satellite.
It was retired from front line service at 19.2E week ending 20th July 2001.
In service here for 12 years 7 months.

Parked out of the way at 19.4E July 2001.

Moved to 5.2E (co-located with the Sirius birds) December 2001 although not reactivated.

Satellite now running low on station keeping propellant, and is running in an inclined orbit.

Astra 1A reactivated at 5.2E week ending 16th March 2002. Its now carrying a digital channel, for quite possibly the first time!

October 30th 2004:    Astra 1A is about to be retired, SES have confirmed to me shes just about finished.  :-(

December 21st 2004:    Sent to junk orbit beginning of Dec 2004   :-(

 

Manufactured

GE Astro Space.

Astra 1A under construction

Approximate size:    2.9m x 1.6m x 1m.

Solar cell array:    19.3m across.

 

Launched

11th December 1988, from Kourou in French Guiana. This mission also carried a second satellite, (Skynet 4B).

launch vehicle:     Ariane 44LP, Flight V 27.

Astra 1 A launch

The 1200kg Ariane 4 third stage remained in orbit until 1998! It finally broke up when it re-entered the atmosphere on 17 February 1998.
The orbit of the vehicle at the time of the breakup was 435 km by 35,875 km with an inclination of 7.3 degrees.

A large version of this Ariane V27 launch picture can be found here.

 

Specifications

launch weight:     1768 kg, (transponders 230 kg, antennas 46kg).

power consumption:     2600 watts.

16 transponders (with 6 back ups).

output power:     45 watts.

transponder bandwidth:     26Mhz

satellite stabilization:     3 axis.

operating frequencies:     11.200 - 11.450 MHz

expected lifetime:    in excess of 12 years.

programmes started:    5th February 1989.

 

In 1994, Astra 1C took over some of 1A's frequencies due to technical problems (reports suggest the satellite was having overheating problems).

Insurers paid $26.5 million compensation for loss of power on the satellite in 1999.

 

Postage Stamps !

On March 6th 1989, Luxembourg issued a stamp to commemorate the launch of tv services off 1A.

Luxembourg stamp, 1989

In 1991, Luxembourg released more stamps featuring Astra operations. One had Astra 1A and 1B on it.

More Luxembourg stamps, 1991

 

Final analogue channels

As far as I can tell, the last few analogue channels being transmitted by Astra 1A before switch off at 19.2E were:

11244 H    RTL Shop

11303 H     Viva Zwei

11318 V    Sky 1 (encrypted)

11362 H     Bloomberg Germany

11377 V    Sky News (had been removed end of June 2001)

11436 V    Sky MovieMax (had been encrypted & removed end of June 2001)

 

 

Update 27th August 2001.

According to an article in the September 2001 edition of "What Satellite" magazine, Astra 1A isnt finished yet!

The north - south station keeping isnt going to be done any more, and the orbit will become increasingly inclined each year, (drifting by about 1 degree per year).

After about  5 years by when the orbit will be heavily inclined, the fuel will be very low. At this point the engine on Astra 1A will be fired for the last time, and the satellite will be boosted into a high graveyard orbit. Any remaining fuel will be dumped to prevent any accidental explosions, and at this point she will definitely be finished...    :-(

I have no idea if there will ever be any more analogue transmissions off 1A, but its nice to think this battered old satellite which bought multi channel direct satellite transmissions to the whole of Europe has a few useful years left yet. The frequencies listed above are the last few active ones on the satellite, so those are the ones to keep an eye on.   

Update 13th September 2002.

Ses have issued a press release detailing the Astra 1A inclined orbit capacity at 5E.

 

Update 2nd March 2003.

Astra 1A continues in use with analogue and digital signals at 5E.

There is an analogue "Astra 1A" test card transmitting off 11391 H. This started November 2002. The test card can be seen here.

if you want to find a digital service, check RTL 9 on 11370 V SR 3260  FEC 5/6.

The orbit continues to increase its inclination slowly, and is currently about 1.5 degrees.

 

Update 13th December 2003.

Astra 1A was 15 years old on 11th December! And to celebrate (?) SES have just activated 2 additional analogue transponders 11303H & 11362H are currently carrying the Astra 1A test card. The orbital inclination is now about 2.1 degrees.

At this time, the following transponders are active, and therefore still operational:

Transponder Frequency signal
1 11204 H digital feeds
7 11303 H Astra 1A test card
11 11362 H Astra 1A test card
12 11373V / 11388V split tp - digital service
13 11391 H Astra 1A test card

 

Back in July 2001, the last transponders active were:

Transponder Frequency signal
3 11244 H RTL Shop
7 11303 H Viva Zwei
8 11318 V Sky 1
11 11362 H Bloomberg Germany
12 11377 V Sky News
16 11436 V Sky MovieMax

 

 

Update 28th April 2004.

I was browsing the SES Astra today, and found a fact sheet about Astra 1A. It states that the craft now only has 6 operational transponders, although it may be that the craft can only supply enough power to operate 6 at any one time of course......  (1B is listed has having 3 non operational tp's at the moment). 1A's orbital inclination has now increased to 2.5 degrees.

Update 27th July 2004.

Some more changes on the operational transponder front. The changes make me think that Astra 1A can only power 6 transponders at any one time. The tp's in use within the last 12 months are:

Transponder Frequency signal
1 11204 H digital feeds
7 11303 H Astra 1A test card
11 11362 H Astra 1A test card
12 11373V / 11388V split tp - digital service
13 11391 H Astra 1A test card
14 11406 V Astra 1A test card

The orbital inclination is now a dreadfully high 2.7 degrees.

The official Astra 1A footprint for the 5E transmissions has turned up on the Sirius website:

Astra 1A footprint from 5E

( NSAB Sirius)

Update 28th October 2004.

Digital transmission TV6 has ceased and moved to Astra 3A. Meanwhile, the other transmission RTL9 has also started on 3A. This means once SES have found a new home for the VRT Belgium news feed, Astra 1A will be redundant :-(

Update 30th October 2004.

SES-Astra have confirmed that 1A will be junked in the near future after almost 16 years use, because she is just about out of fuel - all remaining services have been moved over to 3A at 23E. Shes now listed as being 2.9 degrees inclined.

Update 10th November 2004.

The final two transponders were turned off today :-(  (RTL9 from 11372V, and the Belgian news feed from 11309H). The end must be coming soon....

Final operations update - 6th December 2004.

A report on the Digital Spy forums says the deorbit manouevers for 1A started on 2nd December 2004. Farewell old friend you served us well. Final inclination was 3.2 degrees.

 

Ive finally got round to putting the 5 official 1A SES footprints on line on the site.

 

 

Much of the technical information on this page has been taken from the press section of the SES Astra web site.

All the pictures and info from the SES web site are SES Astra.

The August 2001 update has been adapted from a report in the September 2001 edition of What Satellite magazine

 

 

 

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