An Atlas 5 rocket carrying Greece’s first satellite took off from Cape Canaveral at 1.10 a.m. Greek time yesterday. Thirty-one minutes later, after a perfect launch, the Hellas Sat communications spacecraft was deployed at 36 degrees East, 35,786 kilometers above the Earth. From there, it will link Greece with its diaspora, provide services to the country’s remote island and mountain regions, facilitate the broadcasting of the Athens 2004 Olympics and serve a range of civilian and military needs. It will be used for video transmissions, digital satellite television broadcasting, high-speed Internet connections and two-way broadband services. Hellas Sat, owned and operated by Hellas Sat Consortium Ltd and Hellas-Sat SA of Greece and Cyprus, is Greece’s first appearance in space, following a flight by a Georgian cosmonaut of ethnic Greek origin, Fyodor Nikolayevich Yurchikhin, on the shuttle Atlantis last October. «Hellas Sat contributes to our country’s defense, it will facilitate the broadcasting of the Olympics and is a bridge of communication with diaspora Greeks,» said Lefteris Antonakopoulos, president and managing director of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), which has an 83.34 percent stake in Hellas-Sat SA. OTE called yesterday «an historic day for Greece and for Cyprus.» The project cost $178 million, including the satellite, Atlas rocket and insurance, Spaceflight Now, the online space news service reported. The satellite was built by Astrium of France and is based on the Eurostar E2000+ satellite model. It will serve Europe with two fixed beams and cover Africa and the Middle East with two steerable beams. «Hellas Sat will be functioning fully, meeting the needs of OTE and its customers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Southeastern and Central Asia in about two months, 34 days after being fixed in orbit… where it will be active for about 15 years,» OTE said. Other shareholders in Hellas Sat are the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) with 3.93 percent, the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority with 3.84 percent, Cypriot IT firm AvacomNET Services with 8.5 percent and Canada’s TELESAT with 0.39 percent. A primary controlling station is located in Greece and a reserve one in Cyprus. With Hellas Sat, Greece and Cyprus join another 25 countries that have their own satellites. Cypriot Transport and Communications Minister Kikis Kazamias said 25 countries want to use Hellas Sat. Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 rocket carried the satellite into orbit.