France’s Helios IIA military observation payload to be launched December 10 on Flight 165
In a demonstration of its operational flexibility, Arianespace's Flight 165 has been set for a December 10 liftoff with an Ariane 5 Generic vehicle, while the Flight 164 return-to-service mission for its heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA is now targeted for January 2005.
Details of Arianespace’s new launch planning were provided today by CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall, who met with international journalists in Paris.
Technicians fuel the Parasol small satellite (in the foreground), while the four Essaim spacecraft are lined up behind it.
Le Gall said the rescheduling allows additional time for final launch authorization to be given to Flight 164. The mission will be the first for a heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA version after the launcher’s unsuccessful maiden flight in December 2002. Le Gall explained that nearly all of the actions needed for the Ariane 5 ECA’s launch authorization have been completed, and the mission’s shift to January will provide additional time to ensure all remaining verifications are thoroughly carried out.
The Ariane 5s for both Flight 165 and Flight 164 are undergoing preparation at the Spaceport in French Guiana. The Flight 164 vehicle is in the Final Assembly Building, while Flight 165’s Ariane 5 is in the nearby Launcher Integration Building.
Arianespace’s flexibility in mission planning – demonstrated through years of operational experience – enables the Flight 164/Flight 165 switch to be made without a major interruption in the activity flow at the Spaceport. The Spaceport’s modern launch infrastructure, which allows two Ariane 5s to be prepared in parallel, and the ability of its large S5 clean-room satellite checkout facility to simultaneously handle multiple payloads enables such mission changes to be handled in stride by Arianespace and its industrial team.
Flight 165 will carry the French Helios IIA military reconnaissance/surveillance platform as its primary payload. This will be a mission to Sun-synchronous orbit, and its Helios IIA payload is the initial platform a second-generation space-based military reconnaissance program led by France and also involving Belgium and Spain.
In addition, the mission will orbit six auxiliary passengers: four small Essaim satellites developed by the French defense procurement agency (DGA) to validate technologies for a future space-based electronic intelligence (ELINT) system; the French CNES National Space Agency’s Parasol small satellite, which is to provide scientists with a better understanding of Earth’s climatic system by studying the impact of aerosols and how they interact with clouds; and a Spanish small satellite called Nanosat.
Next January’s launch of Flight 164 will orbit the XTAR-EUR governmental telecommunications satellite, along with an experimental/test payload consisting of the Sloshsat mini satellite (which is to be separated during the mission), and the Maqsat B2 telemetry/video imaging package (which will remain mated to Ariane 5 throughout the mission).
In his briefing to journalists in Paris today, Le Gall said Arianespace plans a total of six missions with Ariane 5 in 2005. He also pointed out that Arianespace signed launch contracts during 2004 for seven additional payloads, further strengthening its backlog and maintaining the company’s leadership in the commercial launch services sector.