Mission Update

Mission Update

Ariane 5 makes history with its successful mission to orbit ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2

May 21, 2010 – Ariane Flight 194

Arianespace delivered another dual-satellite payload into orbit today with a milestone flight that utilized the 50th Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

Tonight’s mission with ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2 was the 50th launch of an Ariane 5 vehicle.

Lifting off from the Spaceport in French Guiana, this Ariane 5 ECA version successfully orbited the ASTRA 3B commercial telecommunications satellite for Luxembourg-based SES ASTRA, along with the COMSATBw-2 secure military relay spacecraft for Astrium GmbH on behalf of the German Bundeswehr (armed forces).

With today’s mission, Arianespace’s workhorse heavy-lift launch vehicle has lofted payloads weighing a combined total of more than 300,000 kg. since its maiden liftoff in 1996.  

During the past 50 flights, Ariane 5s have carried commercial telecommunications satellites; military relay, reconnaissance and early warning spacecraft; Earth observation platforms and meteorological satellites; scientific space probes, experimental and developmental payloads, and the first Automated Transfer Vehicle for servicing of the International Space Station. 

“And this success will continue: after today’s flight Arianespace’s order book still has 34 geostationary orbit satellites to launch – which is a new record – along with six missions with the ATV [Automated Transfer Vehicle] and 17 launches for Soyuz,” said Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall in post-launch comments at the Spaceport’s mission control center.  “Since the start of 2010, Arianespace already has signed seven new contracts, with several others now in advanced negotiations.”

This evening’s mission with ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2 was the 194th flight of an Ariane family launcher since 1979.  Payload lift performance for the launch was approximately 9,115 kg. – which included 7,970 kg. for the two satellites, plus the associated integration hardware and the launcher’s SYLDA 5 dual-payload dispenser system.

The on-time liftoff occurred at the start of a launch window that opened at 7:01 p.m. local time in French Guiana.  Ariane 5 provided another high-precision delivery, with the following provisional parameters at the injection of the vehicle’s cryogenic upper stage:
- Perigee: 248.5 km. for a target of 248.4 km.
- Apogee: 35,970 km. for a target of 35,969 km.
- Inclination:  3.00 deg. for a target of 3.00 deg.

ASTRA 3B was released first into geostationary transfer orbit, being separated from the upper passenger position of Ariane 5’s dual payload “stack” at approximately 27 minutes into the flight.  The satellite was produced for SES ASTRA by EADS Astrium, and it had an estimated liftoff mass of 5,470 kg.

More than 300,000 kg. of payloads have been carried by Ariane 5 during this workhorse launcher's 50 missions.

Configured with 60 Ku-band transponders and four Ka-band transponders, ASTRA 3B was the 10th satellite orbited by Arianespace for SES ASTRA, and the 33rd for the SES group – one of the world’s leading providers of satellite transmission capacity.  ASTRA 3B will be located at 23.5 degrees East, which is ASTRA's orbital position for delivering Direct-to-Home (DTH) broadcast services to Benelux and Eastern European countries, and this location also will serve public and private satellite communication networks across Europe and the Middle East.

The COMSATBw-2 lower passenger on Ariane 5 was deployed at approximately 33 min. into the flight.  This 2,440-kg. satellite was designed, integrated and tested by Thales Alenia Space on behalf of EADS Astrium – the program’s space segment prime contractor – and it was the 34th military satellite orbited by Arianespace.

COMSATBw-2 will operate from an orbital position of 13.2 deg. East, providing secure broadband network for uninterrupted communications between the German government, military authorities and armed forces deployed around the world.  It is equipped with four SHF-band transponders and five UHF-band transponders, and will join COMSATBw-1 – orbited last October by another Ariane 5.

Today’s launch had previously been postponed, and Le Gall thanked all who contributed to resolving the technical issues that were encountered.  “This flight is the 40th Ariane 5 launch since I joined Arianespace, and more than anyone, I fully appreciate what we owe all of you,” Le Gall added. “I particularly want to thank you for the work performed during the past several weeks, which enabled us to succeed with this superb launch.”

Le Gall announced that Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 mission is planned for June, with the ARABSAT-5A and COMS-1 satellites.


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