Australian broadband sat launch also tested next Ariane rocket

European Space agency's re-usable rocket plan takes a small step forward

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Video The European Space Agency (ESA) used the launch of new satellites for India and Australia to test technologies it plans to use in the successor to the Ariane 5 rocket.

Flight VA231 went aloft on Thursday, taking with it the Sky Muster II satellite that will help Australia's national broadband network (NBN) to reach remote areas, thanks to the presence of over 100 Ka-band spot beams that target remote areas.

Next out the door on the 32-minute flight was India's GSAT-18, another communications satellite.

The ESA has now revealed that after the rocket completed its delivery run, "the upper stage coasted for another 30 minutes to mimic the longer missions of Ariane 6."

"During this time, 65 sensors and a camera inside the liquid hydrogen tank observed the propellant’s behaviour under microgravity as the stage manoeuvred. The collected data, returned through the New Norcia ground station in Australia, will help in designing the Ariane 6 upper stage."

Ariane 6 is expected to fly in 2020 and its design calls for a payload of 11,000 kg and, critically, a re-usable first stage.

Re-usable rockets are becoming essential as they greatly reduce launch costs.

Australian readers, meanwhile, will be pleased to know that Sky Muster II is doing everything right, so far. It is uncertain when the new satellite will come online, but nbn™ and its retailers are already offering services from the first Sky Muser satellite.

Both birds are expected to operate for 15 years, or perhaps more. The cost of the two satellites was around AU$2bn. Add replacement costs to nbn™'s future budget, those of you trying to figure out if the company has any chance of breaking even or being acquired. ®

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