Airbus has delivered a new satellite to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The satellite was transported over the Atlantic Ocean on the aircraft manufacturer’s iconic Beluga freighter. The Airbus BelugaST (A300-600ST) carried the Airbus-built HOTBIRD 13G satellite for its customer Eutelsat. The satellite arrived shortly after its twin launched into orbit. This marks an important moment for both space travel and the Beluga program.

Space age freighter

This historic flight marks the first time in over twelve years that the Beluga has landed on US soil. The last time it journeyed to the US was in 2009 when it delivered the International Space Station’s European module “Tranquility.” With this latest mission, the unique freighter once again finds itself contributing to the progress of space travel. The aircraft’s large cargo door and hold make the Beluga the perfect tool for delivering large next-generation space equipment.

Airbus Beluga being unloaded

Photo: Airbus

The Beluga ran on 30% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) during this flight. The use of SAF aligns with the manufacturer’s short-term goals of reducing carbon emissions and working towards its long-term goal of reaching carbon neutrality. The airline credited the success of the BelugaXL for allowing the BelugaST to undertake this mission. A spokesperson for the airline stated,

“With the advent of the new BelugaXL, based on the larger A330-200 platform, the existing BelugaST fleet is progressively being made available for outsized freight transport services globally. Since the launch of the new Airbus Beluga Transport service in January, the BelugaST has performed missions for various customers worldwide.”

Satellite advancements

The HOTBIRD 13G satellite delivered by Airbus has a twin, the HOTBIRD 13F, which launched while its twin was crossing the Atlantic. The recently delivered telecommunications satellite is expected to join its sibling in orbit within the next month. These two satellites are the first members of the “Eurostar Neo” family of Airbus satellites. These next-generation satellites are built on technology by Airbus with support from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), European Space Agency (ESA), and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).

HOTBIRD Airbus Satellites in orbit

Photo: Airbus

Once both satellites are in their proper orbital positions, they will be able to broadcast over 1,000 television channels across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The satellites will replace three Eutelsat satellites already in orbit. The advancements will allow Eutelsat to reach over 135 million more people than it could with its currently operating satellites. The satellites can do so thanks to their enhanced thermal control and power systems.

The Head of Space Systems at Airbus, Jean-Marc Nasr, Shared the company’s excitement for the project. Nasr remarked on the transatlantic Beluga flight and orbital satellite program as an incredible feat and accomplishment by all involved. Nasr stated,

“It is a true honour to consecutively showcase two satellites for our customer Eutelsat: two pieces of European technology at the iconic Kennedy Space Center,

“The ability of Airbus to field an autonomous European solution is underscored by the transportation of our satellites in the unique Beluga aircraft – a true example of pan-Airbus synergies!”

What do you think of this transatlantic flight? Let us know in the comments below.

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    Date Founded:

    Guillaume Faury

    Headquarters Location:
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    Key Product Lines:
    Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A350, Airbus A380

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