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When a satellite crosses the ocean in the belly of a whale plane

An “incredible journey” in the belly of a Beluga. Airbus announces the arrival, on Saturday, in Florida, almost on the Cape Canaveral launch pad, of its new Hotbird 13G telecommunications satellite. For this gem of technology, there is no long boat trip and no transport in spare parts. As one is never better served than by oneself, to connect, in three days and four stopovers, Toulouse and Orlando, the enormous container of the satellite made the journey by plane, with the company “Airbus Béluga transport” .

This new subsidiary for non-standard sizes, launched at the beginning of the year by the aircraft manufacturer, uses its famous Beluga ST, the “humpback” cargo planes which, for more than twenty years, have been used to move in-house aircraft sections. Pushed into retirement by a new generation of even larger Belugas, the five famous whale planes have therefore set their sights on retraining.

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“We offer a unique possibility on the air transport market, with planes that remain fuel efficient”, explains Benoît Lemonnier, the company’s boss. Airbus targets non-standard freight in the commercial, but also humanitarian and military fields. In a context of war in Ukraine, the aircraft manufacturer offers Europeans the possibility of “autonomy” compared to the famous Russian Antonovs, the other juggernaut in the sector. “Airbus’ support for European autonomy is underlined by the transport of our satellite in the famous Beluga, a true example of Airbus synergies”, notes Jean-Marc Nasr, head of space systems at Airbus.

Strategic assets, the “old” Belugas are also brandished as a symbol of the decarbonization of aviation since the trip to Florida was made “with 30% sustainable fuel”.

It had been twelve years since a Beluga had entered American airspace. It was during the transport to Cape Canaveral of “Tranquility”, the European module of the International Space Station (ISS).

Source: 20minutes

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