“Marvel of science”: First NBN satellite to launch 1 October this year


news Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning revealed the first of two satellites planned for the National Broadband Network will launch on 1 October this year from French Guiana, describing the infrastructure as “literally a marvel of science”.

In a statement, the Minister said the nbn long term satellite service will be “a game changer” for those living in the bush and would help bridge the digital divide currently experienced by many. The second satellite will be launched later next year. The pair will cover some 200,000 remote homes and businesses.

Minister Turnbull said the next-generation ka-band satellites would deliver world-class performance and peak speeds of up to 25 megabits per second regardless of where people lived. “This means that Australians living in rural and regional areas will have access to a satellite service much better than they currently experience,” he said. “The Government remains committed to rolling out the national broadband network to all Australians by 2020.”

The Minister also held a separate press conference at the Questacon National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra with the winner of the NBN company’s competition which saw children all around Australia draw a picture to appear on the nose cone of the rocket that will carry the satellite into space. The winner of the competition was a student named Bailey Brooks, who lives six hours’ drive from Alice Springs.

Brooks’ class also named the first satellite, which will be called “Sky Muster”.

At the launch, NBN company satellite systems manager Julia Dickonson was asked which communities would be hooked up to the satellite first.

“Well the dates of the satellite hook ups won’t be until several months after the launch. So once we launch the satellites we need to test out the satellites themselves and then we have to test out the ground systems and the IT systems for the end to end service,” Dickson said. “So several months after the launch and then all of the remote communities will have access to the service but we’ll just have to roll out the ground system at each person’s house.”

Minister Turnbull was asked why the rollout had taken so long.

“Well the satellite is a non-trivial piece of infrastructure and Julia has been cracking the whip over the people at Space Systems Loral to build it but it’s a big job and it will be launched as I said on the 1st of October so that’s the time it takes to build a satellite,” the Minister said. “It is literally a marvel of science. A scientific marvel, a satellite service.”

The Liberal MP — who has been outspoken on the issue of marriage equality over the past several days — was also peppered with questions about issues unrelated to the NBN.

“Can I ask you a question about NBN if that’s okay?” one journalist asked. “NBN! We’re back to the NBN yes! Yes! As many questions on the NBN as you like,” responded Turnbull.

Good news for remote Australia — this is a massive deal, and good to see it’s happening shortly. Now we cross our fingers for the satellite launch and hope nothing goes wrong.

Image credit: The NBN company


  1. “Can I ask you a question about NBN if that’s okay?” one journalist asked
    Turnbull response – “Only if that was the question”

  2. What a difference an election makes. Before then, according to Turnbull, those satellites were a gold plated waste of taxpayers money. Now they are scientific marvels.

    Just as well Mal didn’t get his way on the satellites, as with so much else, and cancel them.

  3. What a mealy mouthed shit this man is,not long ago he was ready to put the whole lot in the bin.
    Wonder if he sleeps ok?

  4. I just wish the politicians would just butt out of the day to day operations of NBN. If an announcement needs to be made, let the NBN CEO do the honours. MT didn’t have to make the announcement. All it does is make the announcement a political one and it is high time for the political agenda of the NBN to be put to bed.

  5. Small wonder he got an enthusiastic response…
    “Can you answer a question about the NBN?” would have been more appropriate. Has Mr. Turnbull ever answered a serious question, rather than obfuscated and avoided? Small wonder the media has stopped asking NBN related questions to the point the reporter felt it was necessary to ask if the Communications Minister if it was permitted to ask a question related to his portfolio. Economy, boats, marriage… expert on everything except what he’s paid for.

    His pre-election opinion on the satellites should be included in every story about the launch, testing, first service.

  6. He said he could ask a question about the NBN… there was nothing said about answers.

  7. If I could ask an honest question: who gets to sign up when the thing is ready for service?

    I’m asking because I’m getting the feeling that regional Australia (where I live) is going to get shafted: stuck in a dead black zone, where we’re too far from the cities to ever see FTTH, not even FTTN, with rotting copper or over-priced under-quotad 4G – yet not considered “remote” enough to get a connection to the satellites. We’re not fish nor flesh: not metropolitan, not remote.

    So, I’ll be stuck with my weather-dependent old copper DSL forever. The neighbours across the street won’t even have that, but will live with their 5GB/month wireless from Telstra.

  8. Well it seams so far the only good things being delivered by the NBN is the Labor components of the NBN.
    I’m happy to see that the people in the bush get this very important infrastructure, hopefully this will make them feel less isolated.

  9. Any ideas on what the latency will be like for this specific satellite? Would also be interested in what the single Satellite throughput (GB/s) is, and what kind of plans would be offered to customers.

    Have got family in the country, but Telstra dongle seems to do the job for now.

  10. Latency for a round-trip to a geostationary satellite, ground station and back will be 450-500ms, since the satellite is at 57,600 km altitude. This rules out fast-paced gaming, and introduces a half-second delay in voice calls. Otherwise, it is going to provide an excellent and stable broadband service for those beyond the reach of wireless and in black spots within the urban footprint.

    “After their launch, nbn will be able to offer wholesale services configured for a planned 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 5Mbps upload service2, to RSPs serving homes and businesses outside the nbn™ fibre and fixed wireless footprints.”
    Source: http://www.nbnco.com.au/connect-home-or-business/information-for-home-or-business/satellite.html

    Note that the second satellite is designed to provide redundancy and load-sharing, though it will probably be called upon to increase the number of services. The idea is that, if one satellite suffered a space collision, there would be a three-year delay to launch a replacement, blacking out all of rural Australia, so the replacement needs to be up there all the time.

    It is, of course, now time to start planning a third and fourth satellite, for launch around 2020.

  11. It’s interesting. His government doesn’t care about science in any other portfolios, so why start with this one?

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