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A European Ka-band internet satellite was successfully launched on Sunday. The Eutelsat-operated spacecraft, Ka-Sat, will concentrate its services on the estimated tens of millions of European homes in so-called “not-spots”, where consumers cannot get a decent terrestrial connection.

The spacecraft follows the Hylas-1 platform (above) into orbit. Ka-Sat (below), with a capacity to serve up to two million households, has more capacity than the smaller Hylas-1 which can only serve 300,000, reports the BBC. Hylas-1, operated by Avanti Communications of London, was launched this November.

Avanti Communications and Eutelsat will work through Internet service providers like TooWay (below), rather than selling directly to consumers.

“As many as 30 million households in Europe are not served at all or get high mediocrity of service,” said Eutelsat CEO Michel de Rosen. “These could be people in the countryside or in the mountains, sometimes not very far from large cities. Ka-Sat is an answer to that problem,” he told BBC News.

Ka-Sat is Eutelsat’s first broadband-dedicated satellite. Each spotbeam (coverage map above) delivers a total capacity of 900 Mbps, shared between the forward and return paths. It will be positioned at nine degrees east and has a total throughput of some 70Gbps. Some 82 spot beams will deliver internet service to different market areas stretching from North Africa to southern Scandinavia and a small segment of the Middle East.

Eutelsat has signed about 70 deals with distributors across their Ka-Sat “footprint”, with more likely over the next year. Ka-Sat is expected to be operational in the second half of the second quarter of 2011. It will join three large HOT BIRD Kuband broadcasting satellites that form the world’s leading video neighbourhood.

The ground network will use ViaSat’s SurfBeam technology, similar to the solution already powering broadband connectivity for almost 450,000 satellite homes in North America.

Paris-based Eutelsat transmits thousands of TV channels across its fleet of spacecraft. It is one of the world’s big three Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) companies, including Intelsat and SES (US arc below).

In the United States, WildBlue currently delivers satellite internet access to nearly 400,000 customers. It is accessible to virtually every home and small business in the contiguous U.S., including the estimated 20-25 million homes and small offices that are not wired for terrestrial (DSL or cable modem) service. Wildblue was acquired by ViaSat last year.

ViaSat-1, a sister satellite to KaSat, is expected to have more capacity than the combination of all other satellites in operation over the United States, providing 2-10 Mbps download speeds at retail prices competitive with terrestrial services, says the company. ViaSat-1 is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2011.

The leading Asian satellite operator is Ipstar, owned by Thaicom in Thailand, with about 250,000 customers for a Ku-band service. Another operator, Yahsat of Abu Dhabi, has announced plans to launch a satellite operating on the Ka-band (right) to serve parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. YahSat 1A should be launched during first quarter of 2011 with YahSat 1B during second half of 2011. They will also use SurfBeam 2 terminals.

Some 3% of rural Australian population is outside of fiber or wireless coverage. It will be covered by satellite with speeds up to 12 Mbps. Two Ka-band satellites will be launched by 2015. Arrangements are being made for an interim service.

There are at least 3 billion people on the planet who have no affordable way to connect to the Internet–a problem Google aims to solve by helping foot the bill for the launch of 16 satellites in the O3B constellation.

The O3B satellite network (“O3B” stands for “the other 3 billion”) is set for launch in 2011. An ISP would install a pair of high-tech antennas capable of tracking multiple satellites and establish a 155-megabit per-second connection to the global Web. ISPs could use 3G cellular and WiMax towers for local connections. Each satellite in the network will have 10 spot beams, each delivering in excess of 1Gbit/s.

In other space news, Google recently sent seven payloads into near space on balloons, each equipped with a Nexus S phones. Sending the balloons up also allowed them to capture some stunning imagery and videos of Earth. Take a look at unaltered footage of an Android at over 100,000 ft above the Earth’s surface.

The payloads collected a lot of data, and many reached high altitudes, with the highest topping out at 107,375 ft., over 20 miles high, or over three times the height of an average commercial jet. In tracking the sensors on each of the phones, we observed that the GPS in Nexus S could function up to altitudes of about 60,000 ft. and would actually start working again on the balloon’s descent.

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