Market Overview

Antonov Airlines Makes Push For Satellite Business

Antonov Airlines Makes Push For Satellite Business

Antonov Airlines, the Ukrainian cargo airline that operates international charter services in the oversized and project cargo markets, is making a further push into the business of transporting satellites. The carrier, which has recently completed several satellite moves, has several more scheduled for the balance of the year.

"The global market is increasing in size. India's space activity, in particular, has grown in recent years. While the number of launch pads has remained fairly small – Cayenne, Guyana and Cape Canaveral, Florida – the origins of the satellites have been extended over the years. Europe, however, remains the largest market thanks to several major original equipment manufacturers in the design and production of satellites, Paul Bingley, commercial manager at Antonov, told FreightWaves.

Famously, the carrier operates a unique 250-ton payload Antonov An-225, the world's largest operational cargo aircraft. Powered by six turbofan engines, the An-225 is the heaviest aircraft ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operation.

Antonov Airlines also operates seven An-124-100 aircraft, each with a payload of up to 150 tons, as well as smaller aircraft, including An-74, An-26 and An-22 aircraft. 

The cargo carrier is no stranger to the business of moving satellites.

"Antonov Airlines has been carrying satellites and space equipment since 1992. For almost 30 years, we have worked with the biggest names in the space sector. These long-standing partnerships have allowed us to build a solid expertise in the transportation of satellites. As technology has progressed, we have adapted our capabilities to ensure the continued flow of man-made objects on their journey into space, Bingley stated. 

"The size and sensitivity of satellite containers presents the most significant challenge. The technological advancement of satellites also means that containers are increasing in size. We have to remain adaptable, particularly with regard to aircraft loading equipment, which needs to be designed to keep pace," Bingley added.

In early August, Antonov carried a satellite in partnership with heavy-lift freight forwarding specialist Kübler Spedition, from Munich Airport to Cayenne Félix Eboué Airport in French Guyana, on behalf of German satellite manufacturer OHB System. An An-124-100 variant was used to transport the satellite and related equipment, with a total payload of 70 tons.

In addition to the satellite inside its own climate-controlled transport container, ground support equipment for preparing the satellite for launch, and Antonov's specialized loading equipment were also transported.

During the flight, Antonov data logger sensors were used to monitor pressure, temperature and humidity in the satellite container. An Antonov technician downloaded this data immediately on arrival at both intermediate and final destination stops, to provide real time data back to Kübler and OHB.

The satellite, called EDRS-C, was launched into geostationary orbit in August, and will receive observation data from low earth-orbiting satellites in the European Space Agency's (ESA)'s network, and relay it to ground stations.

With the launch EDRS-C became the second node of the Space Data Highway (EDRS) that is being realized in a public-private partnership between Airbus Defence and Space and ESA.

Earlier this year, Antonov transported the second in a series of three satellites for the Indian Space Research Organisation, and a third is scheduled later in 2019. The move was coordinated with India-based aviation services provider Flywell Aviation.

Image Sourced from Pixabay


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