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Feature story September 3, 2020

Arianespace passes the milestone of 700 spacecraft launched

One of the smallest satellites launched by Arianespace was the ESTCube-1 technology demonstrator for Estonia’s National University of Tartu (at left), with a mass of 1.33 kg. – which was placed in Sun-synchronous orbit by a Vega launcher in 2013. The no. 5 Automated Transfer Vehicle (at right), lofted by Ariane 5 in 2014 on an ESA servicing mission to the International Space Station, is among the heaviest payloads, with a mass at liftoff of approximately 19,900 kg.

Since Arianespace’s creation 40 years ago, the 700-plus spacecraft launched by the company have expanded the world’s ability to communicate, contributed to the improvement of global mobility, helped monitor Earth’s environment, advanced science and education, unlocked secrets of the universe, and supported human spaceflight.

Arianespace surpassed the 700-spacecraft milestone during Vega Flight VV16, which orbited more than 50 nano-satellites and micro-satellites on the Proof of Concept launch for its Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS).

Performed overnight on September 2-3, Flight VV16’s historic 700th payload was the SIMBA CubeSat for SAB-Launch Services, which was produced by the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium for the European Space Agency (ESA).

From the smallest satellites to heavyweight payloads

Overall, the types of spacecraft lofted by Arianespace in its four decades of operation cover the full spectrum from 1-kg. smallsats for universities to the 19,000-kg.-class Automated Transfer Vehicles that were sent on ESA servicing missions to the International Space Station.

The more than 700 spacecraft were deployed on a range of trajectories, including geostationary transfer orbit, low-Earth orbit, circular and medium-Earth orbit, Sun-synchronous orbit and Earth escape trajectory, along with one suborbital reentry mission.

Categories for the 700-plus spacecraft are as follows:
– Telecommunications relay platforms;
– Earth observation satellites;
– Navigation spacecraft;
– Technology payloads;
– Scientific spacecraft;
– Cargo resupply vehicles deployed to the International Space Station; and
– An in-orbit servicing vehicle.

These payloads were produced by the world’s leading spacecraft manufacturers and were launched for customers in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, and Latin America.

The Arianespace launcher family at work

The spacecraft were lofted by Arianespace’s launcher family – composed of the Ariane, Soyuz and Vega launch vehicles – and represent a combined total mass of approximately 1,476 metric tons.

Looking ahead, Arianespace is to further reinforce its launch services with the introduction of Ariane 6 and Vega C launcher versions.

In the small-sat segment, the Small Spacecraft Mission Service that was validated on Vega’s Flight VV16 will be accompanied by the similar MLS (Multi Launch Service) offer on Ariane 6 – enabling Arianespace to increase the number of affordable launch opportunities for both small satellites and constellations.

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