‘Most sophisticated’ satellite set for launch

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THE most sophisticated commercial communications satellite ever made, and part-built in Portsmouth, is set for launch on July 25.

Astrium’s Alphasat will be launched into space on board an Ariane 5 rocket to reach orbit 22,370 miles above the Earth.

The firm, which makes the payload ‘brains’ of the satellites at its Anchorage Park base, was also the prime contractor for the rocket.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: ‘Alphasat, designed for 15 years of in-orbit lifetime, will have a launch mass of 6,650kg and a wingspan of 40 metres once its solar arrays are deployed in orbit.

‘Launch and Early Orbit Phase operations will be conducted from the Astrium spacecraft control centre in Toulouse.’

It takes years for a satellite to go from blueprint to launch.

The various parts are built in different places – Portsmouth build the payload, while Astrium’s team in Stevenage build its wings. The whole thing is taken to France to be assembled, and then is shipped to the launch site.