On August 27, 1985, the Aussat A1 satellite silently climbed from the payload bay of the space shuttle Discovery, on it’s way to becoming the first Australian-owned and -operated telecommunications satellite.
Twenty-five years later, and it would be hard to imagine a world without satellite communications. We rely upon them for our day-to-day communications, plus TV, radio, internet, banking services and so on.
The Australian federal government established the government-owned satellite company, Aussat, in 1981. Three A-class satellites were launched during the mid- and late-1980s.
In 1991, the government sold Aussat into private hands, and Optus was born (being a consortium of major domestic companies plus two overseas telecommunications carriers).
Three new satellites were planned; the first, B1, was launched in August 1992. The launch of B2 followed in December 1992, but it was destroyed shortly after launch when the Chinese rocket exploded. The exact cause was never determined. B3 was successfully launched in August 1994.
One C-class satellite was launched in June 2003, partly funded by, and heavily used by, the Australian Department of Defence.
There are now three D-class Optus satellites on orbit, the most recent being D3, launched in August 2009.
“The geographical size of Australia and the vast distance between some of our remote and regional communities means that satellite has always and will continue to make sense for Australia,” said Paul Sheridan, Director of Optus Satellite.
“Optus is very proud of our Aussat heritage and with 25 years of experience, we continue to be the leading provider of satellite services across Australia and New Zealand.”
Adapted from information issued by Optus.
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