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Thuraya-1 launch delayed

Technical problems have put back the launch of the Middle East's first mobile telecommunications satellite, Thuraya-1, currently waiting on its launch platform in the Pacific Ocean.

The launch of the Middle East’s first mobile telecommunication satellite has been delayed by 24 hours.

Thuraya-1, due to blast-off at 10.15am today will now launch at the same time tomorrow (6.15am GMT). The Thuraya telecoms company stated that an undisclosed technical fault was to blame for the delay.

The satellite will be the heaviest one launched so far by the Zenit-3SL rocket, weighing in at 5000kg. It was built by Boeing GEM, and will be controlled from a master control centre based in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Once the system is in it’s geo-synchronous orbit 36,000km above the earth, it will provide satellite enhanced mobile communications to 99 countries across the Middle East, Asia, central Africa and Europe. Services including data, fax, SMS and GPS will be available to users of the system, which has an initial capacity for 1.8 million subscribers.

The satellite will be launched from the Sea Launch Odyssey, a converted oil-drilling rig. By launching at sea, the company avoids the cost of expensive ground facilities, and is also able to launch the rocket from the equator at a much more variable angle than on land.

This means that it takes a great deal less fuel for the satellite to reach its orbit, allowing a much heavier payload, or more fuel reserves for in-orbit maneuvering, greatly increasing the longevity of the satellite by allowing it to be repositioned if its orbit deteriorates.

The launch will be shown live on television in the UAE, and by webcast at www.sea-launch.com.

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