Soyuz successfully launches Hispasat-36W-1

The European consortium Arianespace launched a Russian-built Soyuz rocket with the Hispasat-36W-1 communications satellite. For the first time, the Soyuz was carrying its payload from Kourou toward a geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers over the Equator. The VS16 mission lifted off on Jan. 27, 2017, from the European facility in French Guiana on the coast of South America. It was the first orbital launch attempt for the troubled Russian rocket fleet since the loss of the Progress MS-04 cargo ship at the end of 2016, and the first mission for Arianespace in 2017.

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Soyuz lifts off with Hispasat-36W-1 on Jan. 27, 2017.

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Soyuz VS16 mission with the Hispasat-36W-1 satellite at a glance:

Spacecraft designation Hispasat-36W-1 (originally Hispasat AG-1) communications satellite
Spacecraft developer OHB System AG, Bremen, Germany
Spacecraft operator Hispasat, Spain
Total mission payload mass 3,343 kilograms
Spacecraft liftoff mass 3,220 kilograms
Spacecraft dry mass 1,700 kilograms
Spacecraft dimensions 3.1 x 2.47 x 4.95 meters (under payload fairing); 7.5 x 20.8 x 4.95 meters (when fully deployed)
Power supply capability 3.4 kilowatts for payload; 6.0 kilowatts for the entire satellite
Communications payload 20 transponders in Ku band and additional capacity of three transponders in Ka band
Launch vehicle Soyuz-ST-B R-15000-012 / Fregat-MT 133-06 (Mission VS16); Fairing: 81KS/GO 24/136
Launch site French Guiana, ELS
Launch date and time 2017 Jan. 27, 22:03:34.428 local time (8:03 p.m. EST)
Spacecraft operational position Geostationary orbit, 36 degrees West longitude


Hispasat-36W-1 launch profile


Ascent profile for the Soyuz rocket with the Hispasat-36W-1 satellite.


Mission profile for the Soyuz rocket with the Hispasat-36W-1 satellite.

The Soyuz-ST-B/Fregat-MT rocket carrying the Hispasat-36W-1 satellite lifted off as scheduled on Jan. 27, 2017, at 22:03:34.428 p.m. local time from the ELS launch complex, a part of the Kourou launch site.

Shortly after clearing the tower, the rocket headed east over the night-covered Atlantic to align its ascent with an orbital inclination of 5.44 degrees toward the Equator.

The initial active phase of the flight under power of the first, second and third stage of the Soyuz lasted nine minutes and 23 seconds. Upon completing their job, all the boosters and the payload fairing fell back into the ocean. The launcher’s third stage separated from the upper composite, which comprised the Fregat-MT upper stage and the Hispasat satellite. At that time, the upper composite was approaching the apogee (highest point) of its initial orbit located 201 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Once there, the Fregat fired its main engine for about 18 minutes, which pushed the payload into an elliptical (egg-shaped) orbit with an apogee at a nearly geostationary altitude of 35,851 kilometers. Four minutes after the maneuver, or 32 minutes 10 seconds into the flight, Hispasat 36W-1 was released from the Fregat's adapter built by RUAG space.

The Fregat then performed a braking maneuver to enter a disposal orbit below that of the satellite. In the meantime, the spacecraft flew passively before reaching the new apogee of its elliptical orbit, where it could fire its own engine to circularize its orbit. The satellite will eventually be positioned in orbit at 36 degrees West longitude over the Equator. It was expected to be fully operational in early April 2017.

Hispasat 36W-1 launch sequence:

Time (h:min:sec)
Beginning of the State Commission meeting for launcher fueling authorization
Beginning of Launch Vehicle fueling with propellant components
Launch Vehicle is fueled with all propellant components
Mobile gantry withdrawal
"Key-to-launch" command (beginning of Soyuz synchronized sequence)
Fregat transfer to onboard power supply
Upper Composite umbilical drop off command
Ground-board power transfer
Lower stage mast retraction
Preliminary thrust level
Full thrust level
Jettisoning of 1st stage boosters at an altitude of 45 kilometers
Jettisoning of fairing
Separation of the core (2nd) stage
Separation of the 3rd stage
Fregat 1st burn starts
Fregat 1st burn ends
Spacecraft separation
End of mission

SmallGEO platform


Built for a Spanish customer, the Hispasat-36W-1 satellite (or H36W-1 for short) is the first mission relying on the SmallGEO platform developed by the German company OHB System.

According to the manufacturer, the SmallGEO satellite bus was designed to offer satellite operators an entirely European solution in the smaller telecom satellite market by speeding up the production and testing processes, reducing costs and broadening the range of design options. In the course of the program, OHB System formulated a set of requirements, collectively known LUXOR, for a smaller-than-usual communications satellite.

According to the original specifications, the SmallGEO bus was designed to carry a payload reaching 300 kilograms and provide it with up to three kilowatts of electricity. Overall, the satellite's two solar arrays can output more than six kilowatts of power for various systems. Also, like most large communications satellites, the SmallGEO platform has an operational warranty of around 15 years and provides three-axis attitude control for its payload.


Architecturally, the SmallGEO platform has a modular design and can support several different payload configurations. The conventional setup with a chemical propulsion system was intended for the quickest possible ascent to geostationary orbit after the satellite has been separated from the launcher. The alternative FLEX configuration features a fully electric propulsion system, allowing the payload capacity to be almost doubled for the same satellite mass, but at the cost of a slower trip to destination. Finally, another variant of the platform combines a traditional chemical apogee motor with an electric propulsion system and is optimized for Earth-observation missions.

As of 2009, the first launch of a satellite based on the SmallGEO bus was expected in 2012. Although in reality, the first mission came half a decade later, by 2017, the Hispasat was expected to be followed by several other communications, remote-sensing and weather satellites based on the SmallGEO platform, including EDRS-C and MTG.

Hispasat-36W-1 satellite


The Hispasat-36W-1 mission was funded through the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems, ARTES, project of the European Space Agency, ESA.

The operator of the satellite -- Spain-based Hispasat Group -- has distributed media content in Spanish and Portuguese for 25 years. The company maintains presence on the Iberian Peninsula and in Latin America, where it is the fourth-largest satellite operator. The company distributes more than 1,250 television and radio channels through its satellites.

Hispasat-36W-1 carries 20 Ku-band transponders and the additional capacity of three transponders in Ka band.

According to the manufacturer, the communications payload on the satellite features a so-called regenerative digital processor, Red-SAT, with an innovative Ku-band antenna manufactured by the Spanish division of Airbus Defense and Space. The device is known as DRA/ELSA or Direct Radiating Array ELectronically Steerable Antenna.

The first for a European communications satellite, it was designed to actively receive Ku-band signals, while allowing onboard reconfiguration of the beam. This reception active antenna with printed radiators in Ku band offers four independent 36-MHz reconfigurable beams. The processor, working in conjunction with the antenna, can reconfigure and re-broadcast the signal on demand. The processor component was also manufactured in Spain by a division of the European company Thales Alenia Space.

The new technology promises easier and more efficient use of Ku-band communications by adapting the satellite for future potential uses including serving new clients in different areas on Earth or moving the satellite to a new orbital position, Hispasat said.

The antenna’s flexibility allows the generation of variable width spots including commutable beams (beam hopping). These capabilities can be implemented on each beam either independently or simultaneously. The operator can reconfigure the radio frequency beams over the coverage zone, permitting an unprecedented flexibility in multimedia and broadcasting services over South America, Europe and the Canary Islands.


The capacity to mitigate possible interferences intended or not, is generating new specific products such as GEO localization of those interferences. These innovations will be incorporated into the next generation of active antennas, Airbus said.

The project was developed over four years with an industrial structure in which Airbus Defence and Space in Spain led a group of almost a dozen European subcontractor companies to build this subsystem as part of the payload from TESAT-Spacecom. The group included a large number of Spanish companies such as TECNOBIT (Grupo Oesía), Indra, IberEspacio, Arquimea, Elatesa, Rymsa, ALTER, TTI Norte and CTI.

The DRA/ELSA antenna design for Hispasat was based on previous technologies like the In-orbit Reconfigurable Multibeam Antenna, IRMA, antenna on board the SpainSAT spacecraft designed for military secured communications, and the active antenna for the Gaia astronomy satellite that transmits large amounts of data as the spacecraft catalogs stars. Both these systems operated well at the time of the Hispasat-36W-1 launch.

According to Airbus, this technology continues to evolve and the company was already preparing future generation antennas within the Quantum satellite program.

In addition to the multi-beam antenna, Airbus Defense and Space Spain also provided three traditional antenna dishes for Hispasat-36W-1. According to the company, carbon fibre reflector technology without paint was used for the first time in the manufacture of deployable antennas, allowing for mass and cost savings plus a slight increase in the amount of data transmitted. This is thanks to an innovative use of carbon fibre materials with high thermal control efficiency that permit the development of new solutions through the intelligent use of advanced materials. These antennas incorporate the high performance motorized Antenna Deployment and Pointing Mechanism, ADPM. The mechanism allows, for the first time, the delivery of a complete antenna system that includes deployable reflector, hold-down and release mechanisms, as well as the deployment mechanisms, Airbus said.

From its orbital position at 36 degrees West, (which is reflected in the name of the spacecraft), Hispasat-36W-1 will allow its operator to provide a wide range of telecommunications services in Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and South America.

Within the Hispasat 36W-1 project, OHB System AG was in charge of satellite integration, in-orbit tests and satellite commissioning, before handing over operational responsibility to Hispasat.

The completion of the Hispasat-36W-1 spacecraft ended a nearly 20-year hiatus in manufacturing of communications satellites in Germany. Within the project, Tesat-Spacecom GmbH from Backnang was the principal contractor for the telecommunications payload and Jena Optronik GmbH supplied star trackers. Other participating contractors included RUAG Space in Switzerland, IABG, OHB Sweden, OHB Italia, Luxspace, and German Space Operations Center, GSOC, operated by the German Aerospace Center, DLR.

Preparations for launch

The assembly of the first and second stages of the Soyuz-ST-B rocket slated to carry Hispasat-36W-1 satellite was conducted inside the assembly building of the ELS complex from Sept. 5 to Sept. 14, 2016. The rocket's Fregat upper stage was processed for the mission from Nov. 9 to Nov. 26, 2016, when it was transferred to FCube building for fueling. On December 1, the satellite arrived to Kourou and after initial processing was moved from the S1 to the S3B building on Jan. 9, 2017. On the same day, pneumatic tests of the Soyuz booster stages began and were completed on January 12. The next day, the three-day fueling process of the satellite began.

On January 4, the third stage of Soyuz was integrated at the launch site and on January 19, the Fregat arrived at the S3B building, where it was integrated with the satellite a day later.

On January 21, the Fregat/Hispasat stack underwent final preparation and was encapsulated under the 81KS payload fairing.

On Jan. 23, 2017, the final integration was conducted on the three-stage Soyuz rocket at the ELS processing building and on the payload section at the S3B building. The next day, the headless rocket was rolled out to the launch pad and installed into vertical position, after which the payload section was hoisted to the top of the launcher and bolted to its launch vehicle on Jan. 25, 2017, completing the integration process.


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This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 16, 2017

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: February 1, 2017

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Artist rendering of the Soyuz payload section accommodating Hispasat satellite and the Fregat upper stage. Credit: Arianespace

small geo

A 1-to-3 model of the SmallGEO satellite presented at the Paris Air and Space Show in Le Bourget, France, in 2009. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


General dimensions of the Hispasat-36W-1 satellite. Credit: OHB System


Structural skeleton of the Small GEO platform. Credit: OHB System


Small GEO platform integrated with chemical and electric thruster systems. Credit: OHB System


Redsat payload onboard Hispasat-36W-1. Click to enlarge. Credit: ESA


Testing of the Hispasat-36W-1 satellite. Click to enlarge. Credit: OHB System


The Hispasat-36W-1 satellite during the pre-launch processing. Credit: Arianespace



The Soyuz launcher is transferred by rail from the Spaceport’s MIK assembly facility to the ELS launch zone on Jan. 24, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: Arianespace


Soyuz-ST-B lifts off with Hispasat-36W-1 on Jan. 27, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: Arianespace


A Hispasat ground station. Click to enlarge. Credit: Hispasat