Ariane 5 delivers a record payload and completes back-to-back successes for Arianespace’s launcher family
Ariane 5 provided another record payload lift performance during its year-opening dual-passenger flight this evening from the Spaceport in French Guiana, which came one day after a Soyuz success from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan that lofted six Globalstar second-generation constellation satellites.
Today’s launch orbited the Amazonas 3 and Azerspace/Africasat-1a telecommunications platforms, delivering a total calculated mass into geostationary transfer orbit of 10,317 kg. – which included 9,503 kg. for the two spacecraft, along with the dispenser system and integration hardware in Ariane 5’s dual payload “stack.”
The Ariane 5 begins its ascent with this evening’s record-setting payload to geostationary transfer orbit.
“This performance demonstrates once again the pertinence of our improvement policy, which enables us to augment the capacity of our launcher while maintaining its reliability,” said Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall in comments at the Spaceport.
The back-to-back missions also underscored the flexibility of Arianespace’s launcher family – composed of the heavy-lift Ariane 5 utilized today at French Guiana, the medium-lift Soyuz employed in yesterday’s flight from Kazakhstan (on a mission performed by its Starsem affiliate), and the new light-lift Vega – which currently is being readied for its no. 2 Spaceport launch.
Le Gall noted that the smooth countdown to Ariane 5’s liftoff at 6:36 p.m. local time in French Guiana highlights the competence and maturity of Arianespace’s launch teams, which are trained to oversee operations with the company’s launcher family trio.
Ariane 5 deployed its Amazonas 3 and Azerspace/Africasat-1a passengers on a mission lasting just under 37 minutes.
Riding in the upper position of Ariane 5’s payload “stack,” Amazonas 3 was released first during the flight. This satellite for the HISPASAT Group was produced by Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California, and is to operate from a 61 deg. West longitude orbital slot.
Equipped with 33 Ku-band and 19 C-band transponders, along with nine Ka-band spot beams, Amazonas 3 will provide telecommunications relay services that include direct-to-home television (DTH), corporate fixed and mobile telephone networks, and broadband capacity with coverage across the Americas, Europe, and North Africa.
Azerspace/Africasat-1a was then separated from Ariane 5, starting a career in space for the first-ever national Azerbaijan satellite launched by Arianespace. It was produced by Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, under contract to the Republic of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies for the country’s satellite operator, Azercosmos. The platform has 24 C-band transponders and 12 Ku-band transponders to deliver communications coverage over Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Europe and Africa from an orbital location of 46 deg. East longitude.
Tonight’s mission was Ariane 5’s 68th launch, and the 54th consecutive success for this workhorse Arianespace vehicle. It was designated Flight VA212, signifying the 212th liftoff of an Ariane-series launcher since 1979. Estimated orbital parameters at injection of the Ariane 5’s cryogenic upper stage were:
– Perigee: 247.2 km. for a target of 247.0 km.
– Apogee: 35,914 km. for a target of 35,891 km.
– Inclination: 5.99 deg. for a target of 6.00 deg.
Le Gall said coming up next at French Guiana is a launch targeted for April with Vega (designated Fight VV02 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system), using this light-lift vehicle to orbit the European Space Agency’s Proba-V satellite for monitoring of global vegetation growth, along with the VNREDSat-1A Earth observation satellite for Vietnam.
According to current Spaceport planning, the following mission will be Ariane 5’s Flight VA213, carrying the European Space Agency’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle for servicing of the International Space Station.