Egypt’s TIBA-1 communications satellite was successfully blasted off into space on-board Ariane 5 rocket alongside Inmarsat GX5 on Arianespace’s VA250 flight.
The launch took place yesterday, 26 November 2019 at 18:23 p.m. Kourou Time from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America).
The VA250 flight was initially scheduled for Friday, 22 November but was scrubbed 20 minutes prior to liftoff due to a power supply anomaly in the ground segment of the Ariane 5 launch complex. The flight had a further 24-hour delay on Monday due to weather conditions at the Spaceport after the power anomaly was resolved.
Fitted in the upper passenger position in Ariane 5’s dual-payload configuration, TIBA-1 was successfully separated after 27 minutes to Geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) where it will transition to its operational orbital slot position at 35.5° East.
Designed to remain in service in orbit for more than 15 years, the satellite had a launch mass of 5,600 kg on lift-off and an electric power capability of higher than 9 kW.
TIBA-1 is owned and will be operated by the government of Egypt. It will provide broadband communications services to Egypt via its dual mission Ka-band payload. It will also provide secure military communication for the Egyptian military and government agencies.
TIBA-1 is the fourth satellite to be launched by Arianespace for Egypt, with Arianespace having deployed three satellites for Egypt’s publicly-traded satellite operator, Nilesat, between 1998 and 2010
Officials in Cairo say the TIBA-1 is a major milestone that will see internet and telecom services cover the entire country. The satellite is key to augmenting the country’s terrestrial infrastructure and internet networks, giving millions of people in remote and rural areas internet beamed down from space.
There will be no such thing as “system is down,” said Mohamed El-Qomsy, CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency, describing the satellite as a key to boosting social development in the country of 100 million people especially in enabling telelearning and telemedicine in under-resourced schools and hospitals, as well as offering strong telecom networks for the social insurance system.
“Once the [current terrestrial communications] system breaks down, there will be a second network to replace it. This means guaranteeing a strong, secure communications network at all times,” El-Qomsy adds in a TV interview.
TIBA-1 was developed by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space as co-prime contractors, with Thales Alenia Space acting as the consortium’s lead partner. Airbus supplied the Eurostar E3000 platform and assembled and tested the spacecraft. Thales Alenia designed and built the communications payload.
TIBA-1 is Egypt’s 9th satellite and the 4th satellite launched in 2019 following the launch of EgyptSat-A, a replacement satellite launched in February, and NARSSCube-2 and NARSSCube-1, two indigenously developed Cubesats launched in July and September respectively.
TIBA-1 is Egypt’s 4th communication satellite in space. Egypt’s publicly-traded satellite operator has launched three communication satellites in the past: Nilesat 101, Nilesat 102 and Nilesat 210.
NileSat recently confirmed it is planning to build a new satellite, NileSat 301, to augment its current satellite capacities, and has received several bids from potential contractors. Some sources say the company budgeted USD 300 million for the construction and launch of the satellite.
Flight VA250 marks Arianespace’s fourth mission in 2019 with a heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the eighth this year across its full family of launchers – which also includes the medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Editor at Space in Africa. He writes about Africa’s NewSpace companies and emerging national space programs.