Marco Polo Satellites

Technical Data

Launch Date – Marco Polo 1: 27-08-1989bsb-footprint
Launch Date – Marco Polo 2: 18-08-1990

Launch Vehicle – Marco Polo 1: Delta-4925
Launch Vehicle – Marco Polo 2: Delta-6925
Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Position: 31.0° East
Contractors: Hughes
Equipment: 5 Ku-band transponders
Configuration: HS-376
Propulsion: Star-30BP
Power: Solar cells (body mounted and drop-skirt), batteries
Nominal Power: 1000.0 W
Mass: 679.0 kg
Funding Agencies: British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB)
Type: Communications
Diameter stowed: 2.16 m (7 ft 1 in)
Width stowed: 2.7 m (9 ft)
Height deployed: 7.2 m (24 ft)
Weight in-orbit: I-660 kg (1450 lb)
Weight, beginning of life: II-662 kg (1500 lb)
Orbit: Geostationary


Marco Polo 1, 2 (BSB 1, 2)

delta-rocketIn July 1987 British Satellite Broadcasting Ltd. (BSB), a privately owned and operated company, selected Hughes Space and Communications Company, today is known as Boeing Satellite Systems Inc., to design and build two Hughes HS-376 satellites for the first television direct broadcast service (DBS) in the United Kingdom.

Hughes would also build the telemetry and monitoring equipment for the ground station located in Southampton, and train BSB ground station personnel. Additionally, Hughes agreed to purchase and handle all aspects of the launch and insurance and to deliver the satellites only after they had been thoroughly tested in orbit. In an agreement that inaugurated the commercial launch industry in the United States, Hughes contracted with McDonnell Douglas to supply two Delta rockets. A Delta-4925 model boosted the first BSB satellite, named Marcopolo 1, on 27 August 1989, and a Delta-6925 launched Marcopolo 2 on August 17, 1990, from Cape Canaveral.

Key to the BSB direct broadcast scheme was having a satellite with enough power to be received by very small (35 cm/13.5 inch diameter), low-cost dishes, thereby making DBS both environmentally friendly and affordable for the public.
Each satellite was equipped with three 110 watt channels. With a footprint that covered the United Kingdom, the satellites broadcast a mix of news, sports, current affairs, light entertainment, children’s daytime TV, and a subscription night-time movie channel.

The popular spin-stabilized HS-376, spacecraft has proven to be highly reliable and adaptable. The basic bus accommodates a wide range of customized payloads, as demonstrated by the versions ordered and built for a dozen customers on six continents. Marcopolo II was the 32nd of this model to be launched and put into service.

The BSB satellite design represented the first high-power DBS use for the 376. Innovative communications electronics and a new Hughes developed super nickel-cadmium battery made the high-power conversion possible. The battery provided sufficient power to maintain uninterrupted DBS coverage during an eclipse, a condition caused when the earth’s shadow prevents the sun from shining on the satellite’s solar cells. To achieve the necessary 110 Watts per channel, Hughes engineers linked two proven 55-watt travelling wave tubes (TWTs) in parallel to a common power supply. Such a paralleling arrangement allows TWTs to be reconfigured by telecommand to either high or low power. The satellite contained five Ku-band transponder channels, but only three could be at full power at the same time. With both Marcopolo spacecraft on orbit, five channels were beamed at full power.

To further accommodate high power requirements, the BSB spacecraft used longer solar panels covered with large area solar cells and a single bus system rather than the typical dual bus.
The solar cell output at beginning of life was 1100 Watts.

Compactly stowed for launch, with antenna reflector folded down and cylindrical solar panels telescoped together, the BSB satellites measured 2.7 m (9 feet) in height and 2.16 m (7 feet, 1 inch) in diameter. After the Delta rocket injected the spacecraft into orbit, an apogee kick motor attached to the spacecraft was fired to circularize the orbit at 36,000 km, geosynchronous altitude. As the satellite moved into its test position, its solar panels were extended and the antenna reflector raised, bringing the satellite height to 72 m. Both satellites shared the orbital position of 31 degrees West longitude.


Sale & End of Life

bsbMarco Polo 1 (BSB 1)
Marco Polo 1 was acquired in-orbit by Nordiska Satellitaktiebolaget in 1993 and operated until 2000 as Sirius 1 in the 5E orbital slot. It was then moved to 13° West and renamed Sirius W operating in an inclined orbit, Nordic Satellite AB expected it to be serviceable past 2006, although BSB 1 was sent into junk orbit in May of 2003.

Marco Polo 2 (BSB 2)
Marco Polo 2 was acquired in-orbit by Telenor of Norway in 1992 and renamed Thor 1. It was located at 0.8 W until it was switched off in January 2002. However, in November 2002, it was moved to 7.4W, it was reactivated with digital test signals broadcasting towards Scandinavia. However, the end was near, Marco Polo 2 was sent into junk orbit in early January of 2003.

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