Mission Update

Mission Update

Arianespace delivers Helios 2B into Sun-synchronous polar orbit on Ariane 5's seventh flight of 2009


December 18, 2009

Ariane 5’s mission with Helios 2B was performed from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch site in French Guiana.  

Arianespace wrapped up another successful year of operations with today’s orbiting of the French Helios 2B military observation satellite, which was lofted on the seventh Ariane 5 launch in 2009.

This daytime mission underscored Ariane 5’s capability to accommodate a full range of satellite payloads by placing Helios 2B into a Sun-synchronous polar orbit during a flight lasting just under one hour. 

It was the third time in 2009 that Arianespace’s workhorse launcher carried defense and security payloads.  On its year-opening mission in February, Ariane 5 lofted two Spirale satellite demonstrators for a French-developed future early warning system, while its October 1 flight deployed the COMSATBw-1 secure telecommunications platform for Germany’s armed forces.

Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall said these missions “underscore the strategic nature” of Arianespace’s role as a launch services provider, and confirms the access to space provided by a system that is backed by European governments and its space industry.

The successful close-out of 2009 launch operations came only days before the 30th anniversary of Ariane’s maiden flight, which was performed on December 24, 1979 with an Ariane 1 version. 

“During the past 30 years, our company has launched 277 satellites – 32 of which were for the requirements of European defense,” Le Gall added. “This will continue in the future: with 10 new contracts signed in 2009 – soon 11 – we have once again led the pack, and our order book guarantees the launch rate of six to seven Ariane 5s annually for the years to come.”

Today’s flight also marked the 35th consecutive successful launch for Ariane 5, demonstrating this workhorse vehicle’s record of reliability for Arianespace’s growing international customer base. 

“While Ariane very often is cited as an example of political cooperation, technical accomplishment, industrial realization or commercial achievement, I can say that after experiencing the many successes as today’s flight, it above all is a formidable human adventure,” Le Gall said.  “This string of uninterrupted success is the anniversary present that we all have dreamed about for these 30 years.  For those who have made it happen: Bravo!”

Helios 2B weighed approximately 4,200 kg. at liftoff, and is the second platform in a new-generation military spaceborne observation system created by France in conjunction with Belgium, Spain, Italy and Greece.  The satellite was produced by EADS Astrium as prime contractor, and the spacecraft’s European industrial team included Thales Alenia Space, which supplied the reconnaissance satellite’s high resolution imaging instrument.  

Managing the Helios 2 program is the French DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) defense procurement agency.  The DGA assigned contracting authority for the space segment to the country’s CNES space agency – which as the direct customer for Arianespace on this mission. 

Ariane vehicles have orbited all of the Helios 2 and Helios 1-series satellites, beginning with Helios 1A in July 1995, and followed by Helios 1B in 1999 and Helios 2A in 2004.  

Le Gall said 2010 promises to be another busy year for Arianespace, with mission planning that includes the second flight of an Automated Transfer Vehicle to service the International Space Station, as well as the introduction of Soyuz and Vega launchers at the Spaceport.

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