O3b is going to remain customer of Thales Alenia Space / Arianespace tandem for next few years.
Contract announced on Cannes on 10 December 2015 consist manufacturing next eight satellites to improve capabilities of O3b. Contract value was not precisely stated, but previously O3B acquired $460 million from investors for finishing constellation of satellites. It seems that O3B is responding to market demands, according to Steve Collar, CEO of O3b Networks:
“This is an incredibly exciting time for O3b and its customers. Our constellation is highly scalable and can be grown in direct response to market demand. In only a little over a year from our full commercial launch, we can already see the need for substantially more capacity in orbit to serve our customers. We are the No.1 operator in the Pacific and, together with Royal Caribbean, we have revolutionized the cruise connectivity market. Our Telco customers are expanding their service offerings and growing their markets on the back of O3b’s performance and capability” said Steve Collar, CEO of O3b Networks."
Thales Alenia Space declared that first launch of new O3B satellites will take place on first half of 2018 and will utilize Soyuz rocket launched from Guiana Space Centre.
All twelve satellites were previously contracted for Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace as launch service provider. At the present six satellites are operating, two are reserved as backup for other two satellites (first four satellites had some minor technical issues). They were built with utilization of ELiTeBus which has origins in Protheus bus. It was developed especially for LEO communication satellites. Satellites are equipped with Ka band transponders for high speed data transfer utilizing twelve fully adjustable antennas. Each antenna is able to send or receive data with speed up to 1.25 Gb/s. Possible connectivity speed for beam is 600 Mbit/s. Total capacity for whole satellite is at 12 Gbit/s. Each antenna is assigned to one transponder, combined with adjustable dishes results in opportunity of providing multipoint downlink. Unique feature of O3B satellites is fact that they are placed on much lower altitude then comparative GTO communication satellites - 8063 km instead 32000 km which is reducing lagging. Claimed latency for voice connection is 179 milliseconds and 238 milliseconds for data service. Satellites are stabilized in three axis utilizing combination of reaction wheels, torque rods and hydrazine fueled thrusters (with thrust at 1 N each). Maneuvers are performed accordingly with earth and fine sun sensors combined with an inertial measurement unit. Correct orbit position is provided by onboard GPS system. All systems are powered by two deployable gallium arsenide solar arrays and li-ion battery. Estimated operation life is seven years. All O3B satellites were launched with utilizing of Soyuz-STB (2.1b) with Fregat-MT upper stage. Soyuz-2.1b is designed especially for missions starting from French Guiana launch site. It is liquid fueled (LOX/Kerosene) rocket, consisting two stages and four boosters. Rocket height is 46 m with diameter at 10.3 m and mass at 308 t. Each booster is powered by one RD-107A with thrust at 838.5 kN. First stage is powered by one RD-108A with thrust at 792.5 kN and second stage is equipped with one RD-0124 generating thrust at 297.9 kN. Additional upper stage, Fregat, is powered by one engine S5.92 fueled with N2O4/UDMH and providing thrust at 19.85 kN. In such combination, rocket is able to deliver to GTO up to 3250 kg.
For new satellites ordered by O3B, Thales Alenia is planning upgrading performance and adding new features to make possible extending present offer of O3B.
O3b is the company developing own constellation of medium orbit satellites to provide satellite internet with best possible parameters. It is operating through over 180 countries across Latin America, Africa, Middle East, Asia and Pacific region. Company was established in 2007 by Greg Wyler with financial backup of various institutions, among others like: SES, Google, HSBC, Liberty Global, Allen & Company, Northbridge Venture Partners, Soroof International, Development Bank of Southern Africa, Sofina and Satya Capital. On June 25, 2013, companies launched first satellites and on December 2014 additional were launched. Company is cooperating mainly with internet service providers and mobile phone operators focusing on voice and data transferring.