Optus Satellites

Optus owns and operates four satellites, Optus B3, C1, D1,D2 and D3 satellites. Four older satellites (A1, A2, A3 and B1) were retired at the end of their operational lives. Optus’ satellite footprints cover Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Hawaii, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Lord Howe Island, Cocos Island Christmas Island and McMurdo Sound.

The B-Class satellites began launching in 1992. Their purpose was to provide television and radio services to Australia and New Zealand.

B-Class Satellites

Optus B1

  • Launch Date: 13 August 1992
  • Primary mission location: 160° East
  • Moved to Junk orbit in May 2008

Optus B2

  • Launch date: 21 December 1992

The launch craft containing Optus B2 exploded on launch and was subsequently destroyed.

Optus B3

  • Launch Date: 27 August 1994
  • Primary mission locations: 156° East (from initial launch until establishment of Optus C1), 152° East (until establishment of Optus D2)
  • Current location: 164° East

Optus B3 was launched as a replacement for the failed Optus B2.

C-Class Satellite

Optus (and Dept of Defence) C1 satellite

  • Launch Date: 11 June 2003
  • Location: 156° East
  • Design Life: 15 Years
  • Equipment: 24 Ku band transponders, 4 (+1) Ka band transponders, 4 X band transponders, 6 UHF transponders.
  • Partially funded by the Australian Government (Defence Department) - Optus C1's use is shared between Dept’s of Defence and Telecommunications, in particular the supply of television services to Australia.

Television Services

The Ku band Transponders are exclusively used for television services, mainly:

  • Foxtel rent a considerable amount of satellite capacity for the transmission of their Foxtel digital service (and onsold to Austar for their Austar Digital service).
  • Optus operate the Remote Area Broadcasting Services Aurora, allowing Free to Air television to be accessed via satellite in areas that may not be able to access FTA services via terrestrial means. The service is also used in a commercial capacity by a number of organisations for satellite linkups.
  • ABC - via the Aurora service allowing access to state tailored feeds of ABC TV in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory, Radio National in all Australian states except Northern Territory, Local Regional ABC radio, Classic FM in all states except Tasmania, Triple J in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, and News Radio.
  • VAST - free to air digital broadcasting, more than 50 national and regional channels around Australia.

Defence Services

The remaining transponders (being Ka band, X band and UHF) are exclusively used for Defence and Military purposes.

D-Class Satellites

Picture of D-Class Satellite

The D1 and D2 satellites replaced and expanded the services provided by the B1 and B3 satellites respectively, which had both been operating beyond their design lifetimes. The D3 satellite is co-located with C1 to expand its capacity.

Optus D1 Satellite

  • Launch Date: 13 October 2006
  • Location: 160° East
  • Equipment: 24 Ku band transponders
  • Launch Mass: 2350 kg

Optus D1 replaced B1 at 160°E. It carries 24 Ku-band transponders designed to provide fixed communications and direct television broadcasting services to Australia and New Zealand and specific offshore locations. All direct broadcast services for subscription and free-to-air television to New Zealand are carried on Optus D1 making it the New Zealand hotbird. Customers on the D1 include the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), the Seven Network, the Nine Network, Sky Television New Zealand and New Zealand's Kordia (formerly known as BCL). D1 also supports VSAT users.

Incorrect configuration of New Zealand spot beam

During in-orbit testing of the satellite, it was discovered that the New Zealand spot beam had been configured with horizontal polarisation instead of the expected vertical polarisation - as had been used on its predecessor Optus B1.

As many existing receivers did not have the ability to receive horizontally aligned signals, Sky Television was unable to transfer services from Optus B1 to this beam as expected. Sky was instead assigned capacity on the more general Australia/NZ beam. Due to restrictions on broadcast rights (in terms of both broadcast licensing and copyright), the unencrypted Freeview service could not make a similar allocation switch and was set up as a horizontally-aligned service on the New Zealand spot beam.

Sky successfully performed an over the air software upgrade to all of its customer set-top boxes, enabling them to receive the horizontally-aligned signals from the New Zealand spot beam. Accordingly, Sky was able to return to their original capacity allocation.

Optus D2 Satellite

  • Launch Date: 5 October 2007
  • Location: 152° East
  • Equipment: 24 active Ku- band transponders (including sixteen 150W transponders and eight 44W transponders).
  • Launch Mass: 2375 kg

Optus D2 replaced the Optus B3 at 152°E to provide fixed and broadcasting communications services. Optus D2 provides ongoing capacity for ethnic broadcast services and VSAT services plus growth to meet future business demands. Optus D2 replaced the Optus B3, which had been in operation for 13 years at the time of D2's launch.

D2 also carries a large number of Free to Air channels, many in languages other than English.

Optus D3 Satellite

  • Launch Date: 21 August 2009
  • Location: 156° East
  • Equipment: 32 Ku-band transponders
  • Launch Mass: 2500 kg

The third in the D series of Optus satellites was successfully launched into a geostationary transfer orbit on 21 August 2009. The satellite was co-located with Optus C1 at 156° east. Optus sold 25% of the transponder capacity (6 out of 24) to Foxtel to provide High Definition programming as well as new channels, expanded digital services and enhanced picture and sound quality Optus successfully launched its D3 satellite on 22nd August 2009 from French Guiana in South America. D3 is Optus’s 9th successful satellite launch since 1985.

D3 coverage of Australia and New Zealand

Map showing coverage by D3 satellite

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