Parallel preparations keep the Spaceport on track with Arianespace’s 2017 launch cadence
Arianespace’s busy 2017 mission manifest is setting the Spaceport’s pace of activity, with vehicles from each member of the company’s launcher family in action or undergoing processing this month in support of the six liftoffs planned from French Guiana between January and late April.
The year’s launches began last Friday with Arianespace’s on-target Soyuz mission, marking the medium-lift workhorse vehicle’s first payload delivery to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) from French Guiana. Designated Flight VS16, it carried Hispasat 36W-1 – the initial SmallGEO relay platform developed by Europe – during a 32-minute mission performed from the Spaceport’s ELS launch facility.
This was Soyuz’ 16th flight from French Guiana since the launcher entered service at the Spaceport in 2011.
Continuing the Ariane 5 mission pace
Next up in Arianespace’s manifest is an Ariane 5 liftoff, scheduled for February 14 on another of the heavy-lift launcher’s dual-passenger deployments to geostationary transfer orbit. The launch vehicle for this mission – designated Flight VA235 – was transferred last week at the Spaceport, moving from the Ariane 5 Launcher Integration Building, where it underwent its build-up, to the Final Assembly building, where it will be fitted with its two telecommunication satellite passengers: AT&T/DIRECTV’s SKY Brasil-1 and Telkom 3S for Indonesian service provider Telkom.
Flight VA235 will be the 235th liftoff of an Ariane-family vehicle in its 36 years of operation at French Guiana, as well as the 91st for an Ariane 5, which operates from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone.
Preparing for Vega’s first launch in 2017
At the Spaceport’s third operational launch facility – the ZLV launch site – a lightweight Vega is taking shape for an early March liftoff with the Sentinel-2B Earth observation satellite, which is to enhance Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation program. Arianespace will orbit the spacecraft on behalf of the European Commission, within the scope of a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).
The Vega has completed the initial phase of its build-up, involving stacking of this vehicle’s three solid-propellant propulsion systems: the P80 first stage, Zefiro 23 second stage and Zefiro 9 third stage. It will be “topped off” with the AVUM liquid-propellant fourth stage, serving as a maneuverable injection module for payload deployment.
Arianespace’s March mission is designated Flight VV09, signifying the ninth launch of a Vega from the Spaceport, and another of its deliveries to Sun-synchronous orbit.
Also present at the Spaceport are Ariane 5 components for Flight VA236, which were delivered earlier this month by one of two sea-going roll-on/roll-off ships used for the transportation of launch vehicles from Europe to French Guiana. The launch of this Ariane 5 is scheduled for the second half of March with two telecommunications satellites that will be deployed into geostationary transfer orbit.
The cryogenic core stage for Ariane 5 to be launched in March with two telecommunications satellites is unloaded from the MN Colibri after docking in French Guiana.