Arianespace’s mission that orbited the Intelsat 20 and HYLAS 2 satellites today marked the milestone 50th consecutive success for its Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, confirming this vehicle’s role as the launch services industry reference in reliability, flexibility and performance.
With the deployment of its latest two passengers during a flight of 34 minutes from the Spaceport in French Guiana, Ariane 5’s combined lift performance in the 50 straight successes totals more than 434,000 kg., delivering payloads to geostationary transfer orbit, low Earth orbit, Sun-synchronous polar orbit and Earth escape trajectories.
Payloads carried by Ariane 5 have included civilian and defense telecommunications satellites, TV broadcast relay platforms, resupply vessels for the International Space Station, civilian and military Earth observation systems, meteorology and environmental spacecraft and deep-space exploration probes; along with auxiliary and piggyback payloads for scientific and industrial experiments, defense early warning, electronic intelligence (ELINT) and climate research.
Recognizing those who contribute to Ariane 5’s success
In post-launch comments from the Spaceport, Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall paid homage to all who contribute to Ariane 5’s successes, from the mission personnel in Europe and the launch teams in French Guiana to Europe’s industrial suppliers, as well as the European Space Agency and France’s CNES space agency – which have played key roles in the launcher’s development and operation.
“Thanks to all you in Europe and French Guiana, Ariane 5 is something that works…works very well…and will continue to work for a long time,” he added. “Following tonight’s launch, and with all of the contracts we’ve signed since the start of this year, our order book effectively covers no less than 19 firm Ariane 5 launches, which guarantees us more than three years of activity. Therefore, thank you and bravo to everyone!”
The numbers from Ariane 5’s unbroken string of 50 mission successes are impressive.
In its most frequent role as the launcher of choice for telecommunications and TV broadcast satellite operators and manufacturers worldwide, Ariane 5 has delivered platforms with a total equivalent relay capacity of well over 3,200 transponders, channels and beams for both civil and military users.
The largest payload lofted by Ariane 5 is Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle for servicing of the International Space Station, with the heaviest of the three orbited so far weighing more than 19,700 kg.; while the smallest were piggyback satellites such as Spain's Nanosat, with had a liftoff mass of less than 20 kg.
Le Gall said today’s mission also was historic from another aspect, as its lift performance of nearly 10.2 metric tons beat the world’s record for total mass launched to geostationary transfer orbit. “We captured the previous record last year with just over 10 tons, and this demonstrates the pertinence of our improvement strategy, which – step-by-step – enables us to increase the capacity of our launcher while retaining its extraordinary reliability.”
Intelsat 20 was installed as the upper payload on this latest Ariane 5 launch, and was released first during the mission at 28 minutes into the flight. Built for international satellite operator Intelsat by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California based on its 1300-series platform, Intelsat 20 weighed approximately 6,090 kg. at liftoff, and is configured with Ku-band, C-band and Ka-band transponders. Intended to replace the Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 10 satellites in orbit, Intelsat 20 is to provide video, telephone and data transmission services for Europe, Africa, Russia, Asia and the Middle East.
Two key customers on Ariane 5’s milestone mission
According to Le Gall, today marks the 53rd time Intelsat has placed its confidence in Arianespace’s launch services. “In fact, more than one payload in six launched by Ariane vehicles from the beginning have been for Intelsat,” he continued. “This proves, more than any words, the quality and intensity of our relationship. And with a satellite as powerful as Intelsat 20, built by Space Systems/Loral, we are certain that Intelsat will be able to respond to the growing demands of its customers – in particular for the African continent.”
The HYLAS 2 satellite orbited by Ariane 5 on today’s flight was deployed 34 minutes after liftoff, and will be used by European satellite operator Avanti Communications. Produced by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia using the Star 2.4E platform, HYLAS 2 is equipped with Ka-band transponders for data capacity offered to telecommunications, enterprise and government customers in Europe, the Middle East and portions of Africa.
Le Gall, who put on a special hat with the 50th success logo for Ariane 5, noted that Arianespace also orbited Avanti Communications’ first satellite – HYLAS 1 – on an Ariane 5 mission in 2010. “We are very proud that to have been chosen by Avanti in contributing to the development of very high-speed data services,” he added.
For today’s 64th mission of an Ariane 5 – and the 208th flight overall of an Ariane family vehicle – the heavy-lift launcher’s estimated orbital parameters at the injection of its cryogenic upper stage were:
- Perigee: 249.9 km. for a target of 249.5 km.
- Apogee: 35,960 km. for a target of 35,934 km.
- Inclination: 5.99 deg. for a target of 6.00 deg.
Following this success – the fourth for Ariane 5 in 2012 – Arianespace’s mission pace will continue with its next two flights announced for September: the September 21 launch of another Ariane 5 from the Spaceport with the Astra 2F and GSAT-10 telecommunications relay platforms; and the September 17 mission of a Soyuz from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, performed by Arianespace's Starsem affiliate and carrying Eumetsat's MetOp-B meteorological satellite.
|Launch of Intelsat 20 and HYLAS 2 Photo Credit: Arianespace