Still in business: Antonov Airlines moves vital satellite for Elon Musk

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Ukraine-owned Antonov Airlines has carried a civil telecommunication satellite on one of its AN-124-100-150 aircraft from Toulouse, France, to the US for Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

The heavylift airline, Antonov Airlines a division of Antonov Company, headquartered in Kyiv, has been temporarily relocated to Leipzig, Germany to allow continued operation of its fleet of five AN-124-100 Ruslan aircraft with payloads of up to 150 tonnes. The Antonov Airlines base at Hostomel, near Kyiv, came under heavy bombardment at an early stage of the Russian invasion, resulting in the destruction of the unique Antonov 225 freighter.

The satellite was moved in cooperation with Bollore Logistics Space to the Nasa Shuttle Landing Facility in Titusville.

The cargo weighed a total of 50 tonnes including a special container measuring 14.69 m in length, 5.45 m in width, and 4.22 m in height, designed by Airbus Defence and Space specifically for moving safely these types of satellites to the Space Center.

The SpaceX programme is developing the Starlink communications system which has played a vital role in Ukraine’s battle with Putin’s forces.

Bollore Logistics projects department manager, Yorann Marc, said: “As permanent users of this type of aircraft, we are pleased to welcome the “Ruslan” on the market to perform the sensitive transports like the movement of the satellites to the different launch pads. The communication channel stayed always active in last months, and we were impressed by Antonov Airlines agility to maintain continuity of service after painful events occurred their home-base in Hostomel.”

Antonov Airlines commercial executive, Sergii Bilozerov, added: “The expertise of the Antonov Airlines technical crew and engineers guarantees the smooth and efficient transport of this delicate and unique cargo. An external crane in conjunction with the onboard crane and winch of the AN-124-100-150 was used to load and unload the container CTH04, as well as special loading equipment designed and manufactured by Antonov’s in-house engineers.”