Parallel launcher and payload preparations put Ariane 5 on track for next month’s mission
Pre-flight activities for Arianespace’s upcoming Ariane 5 mission are ramping up at the Spaceport in French Guiana, with launcher and payload preparations advancing in parallel for the October 4 liftoff.
In a major milestone reached this month, Ariane 5 was rolled out from the Spaceport’s Launcher Integration Building – where its core cryogenic stage, two solid boosters and cryogenic upper stage were mated – to the Final Assembly Building. This process formally transferred authority for the heavy-lift vehicle to Arianespace from production prime contractor Airbus Safran Launchers.
With Ariane 5 now under Arianespace’s responsibility, the launcher is in position to receive its two passengers: the Sky Muster II and GSAT-18 telecommunications satellites, both of which were fueled earlier this month inside the Spaceport’s S5 payload preparation facility.
The October 4 mission with Ariane 5 is designated Flight VA231 in Arianespace’s numbering system, and it will deliver the two spacecraft to geostationary transfer orbit.
Two telecommunications payloads, one launcher
Built by SSL (Space Systems Loral) for the Australian national broadband network (nbn™), Sky Muster II will utilize advanced-design multiple spot beams to help bridge the digital divide for some 400,000 homes and businesses in regional and remote areas of the country.
Sky Muster II is one of the world’s largest communications platforms with a liftoff mass estimated at 6,400 kg. Its launch follows the orbiting of nbn’s first Sky Muster satellite on an Arianespace Ariane 5 mission performed in September 2015.
Flight VA231’s second passenger – GSAT-18 – is a 3,400-kg.-category telecommunications spacecraft developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Once in orbit, it will serve as a replacement for operational satellites that currently provide key national services in multiple frequency bands – to be joined by GSAT-17, which will be orbited on a future Ariane 5 mission from the Spaceport in French Guiana.