12 for 12: Arianespace concludes its record-breaking 2015 with another success for Europe
With 12 successful launches over 12 months, Arianespace’s mission performance in 2015 was one for the record book – concluding with today’s Soyuz flight that further expanded the European Galileo global navigation satellite system.
Ascending from the Spaceport at precisely 8:51 a.m. local time in French Guiana, the medium-lift vehicle performed a mission of nearly 3 hours and 48 minutes to deploy its two Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellite passengers – which are the constellation’s 11th and 12th spacecraft to be orbited to date.
After an initial powered phase of Soyuz’ three lower stages, the flight – designated VS13 in Arianespace’s numbering system – included two burns of the Fregat upper stage, separated by a three-plus-hour ballistic phase, to place the two satellites at their targeted deployment point.
Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël celebrated his company’s mission performance during the year in post-launch comments from the Spaceport, saying: “Twelve launches in 2015: this was the target, this was our motto during the year and now it’s done.”
This record number of Arianespace launcher family missions performed during the year were composed of six heavy-lift Ariane 5 flights, three with the medium-lift Soyuz and three using the lightweight Vega – evenly divided between institutional and commercial customers.
Additional records set by Arianespace include the largest total payload mass injected into geostationary transfer orbit in a year (greater than 53 metric tons) and the highest order intake in one year since the company’s creation (representing a value of nearly 2.4 billion euros).
Galileo: a success for Europe
At full capability, the Galileo program – supported by Arianespace launches – will provide a European-operated navigation system to deliver highly accurate global positioning services through a satellite constellation in medium-Earth orbit and its associated ground infrastructure.
The European Commission is funding and executing Galileo’s FOC phase, with the European Space Agency (ESA) designated as the system’s development and sourcing agent. Prime contractor OHB System in Bremen, Germany produced the satellites, and their onboard payloads are supplied by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).
Arianespace launched six Galileo FOC satellites on three Soyuz missions in 2015, including the successful Flight VS13 performed on December 17.
Flight VS13’s success continues the key role of Arianespace – as well as Soyuz – in Galileo’s development. The medium-lift workhorse lofted a total of four satellites in the program’s IOV (In-Orbit Validation) phase in 2011 and 2012; plus the first eight FOC spacecraft on four separate missions – including today’s – performed over the past two years.
“I think now we can honestly say that Galileo is a success,” said Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the European Union Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. “Because never before has Europe collectively invested its know-how and resources in a single project. Now we are there and we have to continue.”
Chairman and CEO Israël said that Arianespace’s launch performance throughout 2015 illustrated “better than ever” the company’s mission to grantee autonomous European access to space. “In doing so, Arianespace has also paid tribute to sustainable development in the year of COP21 with five launches – three for Galileo, one for Copernicus with Sentinel-2A and one with EUMETSAT with MSG-4 – which will have a direct and positive impact on our environment,” he concluded.
The Galileo system will be further expanded next year on an Ariane 5 mission that will carry four more satellites – with half of the constellation to be deployed at this point – followed in 2017-2018 with two additional flights using Ariane 5s, plus one with Soyuz.