The pan-European Hylas-1 communications satellite has successfully launched, and has begun settling into orbit prior to starting its mission of providing broadband Internet access to isolated rural areas.
The satellite, which launched on Friday and has now been confirmed as having survived the journey to space, is designed to offer broadband access to around 350,000 customers while simultaneously broadcasting standard definition and high definition TV channels.
Once the satellite has been manoeuvred into its geostationary orbit and testing is complete, its payload will be brought online and it will start to offer pan-European satellite TV broadcasts via its Ku-band beam and satellite broadband services to eight key European markets via a series of Ka-band 'spot' beams.
The mission represents the first partnership between the publicly-funded European Space Agency and the private Avanti Communications to result in a full satellite system - with Avanti making use of the satellite to offer remote customers across Europe satellite broadband connectivity where traditional ADSL and fibre-optic services are unavailable or too expensive to install.
While Avanti put forward the lion's share of the mission's budget, various European Governments have pitched in to help - including our own, which has committed around £40 million to the effort in an attempt to guarantee access to a minimum of 2Mb/s broadband for all the UK's inhabitants.
For space watchers, the 2,242Kg satellite will enter geostationary orbit at 33.5°W, where it will remain for its estimated 15 year operational lifespan, and is powered by two Sun-tracking 'wings' constructed from a pair of 2.45m x 1.53m gallium-arsenide solar panels. The satellite is controlled from the Inmarsat headquarters in London, while the network operations are controlled by the equally London-based Avanti.
So far, Avanti has yet to offer any clues as to how much access to the satellite broadband connectivity offered by the Hylas-1 satellite will cost prospective customers.