Antonov An-124 Delivers Airbus Satellite To SpaceX In Florida

Antonov Airlines has used one of its An-124 aircraft to ferry a Turkish satellite to SpaceX’s launch facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The satellite was built at Airbus’ Toulouse manufacturing facility, where it began the first part of its long journey to orbit.

Antonov, Turksat, SpaceX
Antonov Airlines carried a 60-tonne satellite from Toulouse to Cape Canaveral in November. Photo: Antonov Airlines

Antonov Airlines’ fleet often comes in handy when an oversized, bulky, or heavy load must be flown a considerable distance. While the gigantic An-225 occasionally comes out to carry the most extreme shipments, a more extensive fleet of the smaller An-124 also comes in handy from time to time.

An oversized Airbus load

When we talk about Airbus at Simple Flying, we typically focus on the European planemaker’s commercial aircraft. However, the company is also involved in the manufacture of satellites. While some satellites are small and agile, others can be pretty sizeable, including Turkey’s Turksat 5B satellite.

Antonov, Turksat, SpaceX
There wasn’t much extra space around the cargo. Photo: Antonov Airlines

The Turksat 5B satellite weighs 60 tonnes and has the dimensions 14.69m in length, 5.45m in width, and 4.36m in height. Before SpaceX could even think about blasting the satellite into orbit, it had to get from France to Florida.

This is where Antonov entered the equation. The company’s specialty is moving oversized bulky cargo. The huge An-225 wasn’t needed as the slightly smaller four-engined An-124 could do the job.

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Around the Atlantic

Having been packed away into the aircraft, the satellite left Airbus’ Toulouse facility on November 29th at 21:00. It wasn’t possible to fly to Florida in one go, so UR-82027 first flew to Portsmouth on the northeast coast of the US. The flight took eight hours and 23 minutes, covering some 5,642km (3,506 miles) on the way.

Antonov, Turksat, SpaceX
The Turksat 5B satellite will aid connectivity for Turkey and surrounding areas. Photo: Airbus

The giant jet spent around three hours in Portsmouth, enough time to grab some fuel, clear customs, and have a coffee. The plane then returned to the skies at 02:30, landing in Florida at 05:09.

There are many airports in Florida, but it made sense to land as close to the cargo’s destination as possible with such heavy cargo. With this in mind, the aircraft landed on the runway at the Kennedy Space Centre. This is the same runway that countless Space Shuttle missions landed on before the program’s end.

Antonov, Turksat, SpaceX
SpaceX carried the Turksat 5B satellite to orbit. Photo: Getty Images

Having arrived at Cape Canaveral, the satellite was offloaded and handed over to SpaceX. The satellite was successfully launched into space on December 18th and will increase communications capabilities in Turkey and surrounding countries. According to Airbus, the satellite (which can raise its orbit) will remain in service for around 15 years. With a geostationary trajectory (meaning it stays over the same part of the globe), the satellite can handle more than 50Gb of data per second.

What do you make of Antonov’s out-of-this-world delivery? Let us know in the comments!