Saudi Arabia has launched its first telecommunications satellite from a launch pad in French Guiana, according to European aerospace firm ArianeGroup.
According to media reports, the rocket – carrying Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1 – was launched at 9 PM GMT, and will provide telecommunications capabilities, stronger internet connectivity, TV and communications for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
The satellite was developed by a team Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in partnership with Lockheed Martin.
The satellite will serve both the Saudi government and Greek-Cypriot Hellas-sat, a subsidiary of the Riyadh-based Arabsat.
The launch was carried out using the Ariane 5 rocket, which also carried a communications satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
The SGS-1 satellite separated from the rocket approximately 30 minutes after launch, with the jettisoned booster falling 500 km off Guiana’s coast into a protected zone.
“This first launch of 2019 demonstrates once again our capacity to perfectly adapt the Ariane 5 launcher to answer the needs of each client,” ArianeGroup executive president André-Hubert Roussel told AFP.
In 2020, the Ariane 5 is slated to be replaced by the Ariane 6, which will be 40 percent cheaper.
In November, however, ArianeGroup announced it would cut 2,300 jobs by 2022 as the rocket’s development draws near and orders for new launches dwindle in the face of competition.