An Australian Satellite Has Just Launched From French Guiana

The Optus 10 satellite.

Kim Mobbs has one of the world’s best job titles: Technical Specialist, Spacecraft Operations.

And she didn’t have to leave Australia to work on spacecraft. She’s based at Belrose in Sydney at the Optus Satellite Earth station.

It’s part of her job to make sure the Optus 10 satellite which launched today from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, stays in position and does its job.

The communication satellite will carry television, voice and data services.

Mobbs has a doctorate in Geodesy, a branch of applied mathematics and earth sciences which deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth. She came to the Belrose centre after studying tectonic motion in Papua New Guinea.

“The satellites are constantly sending a stream of data down to us telling us the condition of all the units on board,” she says. “We have to monitor that data to ensure the satellites stay healthy and sometimes take appropriate action if things change.”

“The launch is just the first step. It’s great to see the rocket get up but we don’t start breathing a sigh of relief here until we’ve locked on to our satellite once it’s left the rocket.

“It comes over our horizon about one hour after launch and we have a team here that will be tracking it.”

The satellite brings out its solar arrays and each unit is turned on, one by one.

“And when we can see all of the units working, that’s when we declare a successful launch,” she says.

Mobbs has been involved in developing Optus satellites for years, including working on Optus C1 in 2003. C1 was the world’s largest and most complex hybrid commercial and military communications satellite, launched in partnership with the Australian Defence Force.

Optus 10 is the sixth satellite launched by Arianespacee for Optus. Arianespace launched the Optus A3 satellite in 1987, followed by C1 in 2003, D1 in 2006, D2 in 2007 and D3 in 2009.

The satellite’s vital statistics:

  • 1,670 KG: Weight of Optus 10 satellite (dry, without fuel) or 3,270 kg (fueled ready for launch)
  • 265,030: Average kilometres a satellite travels in a day
  • 3.074 KM/SEC: Average speed of a geostationary satellite during its operating life
  • 1,200 Kilograms: Fuel used to raise a satellite into orbit after launch
  • 35,786 KM: Above sea level over the equator is where Optus 10 will be located
  • ¬185 degrees celsius: The coldest temperature satellites are exposed to in space
  • 30 DAYS: Amount of time to prepare the satellite for launch after travel to French Guiana
Control station at Belrose, NSW.

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