SES Astra, the Luxembourg-based company that owns and operates the Astra satellite fleet used in the UK by Sky and the free-to-air broadcasters behind Freesat, has successfully launched the 5300kg ASTRA 1N satellite from Kourou, French Guiana on 6th August 2011.
This satellite will be moved into the 28.2 degrees east orbital position above the equator, where it will join the Astra 2 satellites. This position will allow its transmissions to be received by anyone who uses Sky or Freesat.
This additional capacity will increase the number of satellite transponders by 104.
Of particular note to free-to-air TV satellite viewers, the satellite has a "UK spot beam", which mirrors that of the Astra 2D satellite.
Whilst it can be argued (see Karen Murphy scores against the Premier League and Sky) that EU Television Without Frontiers directive allows public service broadcasters to carry their services on pan-European satellite, international rights holders prefer free-to-air channels to use the tight beams to restrict the coverage to a target country.
As all the Astra 2D transponders have been full for some years, the extra capacity on Astra 1N will allow for expansion.
Speculating, this might include:
Space for BBC TWO HD, which will require four HD stream to provide the English, Welsh, Scottish and NI variations.