A communications satellite created secretly for the Egyptian government in Europe joins the extrasolar observatory of the European Space Agency aboard a Ukrainian cargo plane Antonov An-124 for transatlantic ki flight on Wednesday to begin final preparations for the French Guiana launch.
The TIBA 1 communications satellite and the ESA Characteristic Exoplanet, or CHEOPS, were loaded onto Antonov's cargo plane at Toulouse-Blanac Airport, France, near the Airbus Spacecraft Factory.
The heavy-duty aircraft were transported by satellites – and in climate-controlled transport containers on a transatlantic trip to Cayenne, French Guiana, where they landed on Wednesday afternoon. Both spacecraft were expected to travel by truck to the nearby Guyana Space Center in Kourou, where technicians would remove the satellites from their containers and prepare them for launch.
The TIBA 1 spacecraft will launch in tandem with the Inmarsat mobile communications satellite of the Ariane 5 rocket set to launch on November 22nd. CHEOPS will launch as a secondary payload on the December 17 launch of the Soyuz Russian booster with Italy's first COSMO-SkyMed second generation or CSG 1, a radar surveillance satellite.
Egypt commissioned the TIBA 1 communications satellite in 2016 as part of the acquisition of French military equipment worth more than $ 1 billion. French officials have not released updates on the Egyptian satellite since 2016, and its name and assignment for the November launch of Ariane 5 remain a secret until Wednesday.
Airbus Defense and Space and Thales Alenia Space, rivals in the satellite manufacturing industry, collaborated on the TIBA 1 project. In a statement, Airbus stated that it was delivering the Eurostar E3000 satellite platform, assembling the spacecraft and testing the satellite.
Airbus describes Thales Alenia Space as the "lead partner" of the mission. Thales Alenia Space designs and builds the payload of the spacecraft, Airbus said, including a Ka-band dual-mission package for secure and broadband communications.
The TIBA 1 is intended for a geostationary orbit mission of more than 15 years duration and will weigh about 5.6 metric tons – or 12 345 pounds – fully loaded for launch, Airbus said.
The Ariane 5 launch, set for November 22, will be the 250th flight of the Ariane rocket family since 1979.
The Soyuz mission will follow the Ariane 5 flight to close this year's schedule for Arianespace, the French service provider for the launch responsible for the launch operations at the European Space Center in Guyana, South America.
Lifting at 0854 GMT (3:54 EST; 5:54 PM French Guiana) on December 17, the Soyuz rocket and its upper frigate will carry CSG 1 radar, CHEOPS and five CubeSats into polar solar synchronous orbit.
Developed in partnership with the ESA and the Swiss Space Office, CHEOPS hosts a relatively small 12-inch (30-cm) telescope designed to help astronomers measure the size of planets in the orbit of other stars.
CHEOPS will detect immersion in light coming from other stars caused by already known transiting planets. This is a tracking of space telescopes such as NASA's Kepler Observatory and the French Space Agency's CoRoT mission.
"The idea is that we already know several thousand of these exoplanets," says Willie Benz, Principal Investigator at CHEOPS at the University of Bern. "We are more slowly interested in characterizing them with accuracy, knowing what their temperature is made of and so on. etc. "
The CHEOPS was assembled at an Airbus facility in Spain and will weigh about 640 pounds (about 290 kilograms) when lifted aboard the Soyuz amplifier.
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