Arianespace’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 mission orbits key satellite payloads for Europe and India
Today’s 70th flight of Arianespace’s heavy-lift launcher orbited Europe’s largest ever telecommunications satellite, Alphasat, and India’s latest meteorological spacecraft, INSAT-3D, on the third Ariane 5 mission of 2013.
Ariane 5’s heavy-lift success with Alphasat and INSAT-3D was the launcher’s 70th flight from French Guiana.
The workhorse vehicle lifted off exactly on schedule at 4:54 p.m. local time from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone in French Guiana for a nearly 33-minute flight, which marked the launcher’s 56th consecutive successful mission.
This daylight launch provided an excellent view of the flight’s initial trajectory, as the Ariane 5 began its vertical ascent, then rotated East – arching over the Spaceport’s main base area as it progressed downrange. The flight path was visible between scattered cloud layers, and the clear meteorological conditions enabled an excellent view of the launch’s first phase – including separation of the two solid propellant boosters at an altitude of 67 km.
“Once again, Ariane 5’s unmatched reliability and availability has set the highest standards in the satellite launch business. I am proud these standards have benefitted two key customers: Inmarsat and ISRO…whose two satellite programs share much in common with us,” said Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël. “My thanks to all teams that have made this launch a success, wherever they are: in Europe, or in French Guiana.”
Ariane 5 delivered a total lift performance of 9,760 kg., which included a combined total of some 8,770 kg. for the mission’s two passengers, in addition to the SYLDA dispenser system and hardware in Arianespace’s dual-payload stack.
Deployed first in the flight sequence nearly 28 minutes after liftoff, Alphasat is configured with a new-generation L-band geo-mobile communications relay system that will provide voice and data transmission services across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Alphasat results from a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and operator Inmarsat, with support from the CNES French space agency. It evolved from ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program. The UK Space Agency – in cooperation with the UK’s Regional Development Agencies for London, South-East England and East of England – backed the development of critical new payload technologies under the ARTES program. This spacecraft is the first for Europe’s new Alphabus platform, jointly developed by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space.
With a liftoff mass of 6,650 kg., Alphasat was one of the heaviest passengers carried in the upper position of Ariane 5’s payload “stack.”
“Alphasat, Europe’s largest and most sophisticated telecommunications satellite ever built, is a tremendous testament to the innovation, creativity and talent of so many European agencies, governments, and those across the spectrum of the European space industry,” said Inmarsat Chief Executive Officer Rupert Pearce. “Many congratulations to the Arianespace team and thank you for managing and hosting another successful launch.”
INSAT-3D: Covering the Indian subcontinent
Some five minutes after Alphasat’s deployment, Ariane 5 completed its mission with the successful separation of INSAT-3D, which will provide enhanced meteorological observation and monitoring of land/ocean surfaces. The satellite carries a six-channel imager and 19-channel sounder, as well as a data relay transponder for satellite-aided search and rescue operations.
Arianespace’s workhorse Ariane 5 is shown in the ELA-3 launch zone prior to its July 25 liftoff from the Spaceport.
INSAT-3D is adapted from India’s I-2K spacecraft bus and was developed by the nation’s Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) space agency with its ISRO Space Applications Centre.
“This is another milestone in the long standing relationship between ISRO and Arianespace,” said Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, the Chairman of ISRO, in comments by video. “We are looking forward to the excellent operational performance of INSAT-3D for the next seven years, making a difference for the weather forecasting and disaster warning systems for the country.”
India’s INSAT-3D is the 16th ISRO spacecraft the company has orbited – a partnership that dates back to the third Ariane 1 flight in 1981 – while Alphasat is the eighth payload launched by Arianespace for Inmarsat.
Designated Ariane Flight VA214 in the company’s numbering system – this mission represented the 214th launch since operations began with the Ariane series of vehicles at the near-equatorial French Guiana launch site in 1979.
This afternoon’s flight marked another on-target delivery for Ariane 5, with the following estimated orbital parameters at the injection of its cryogenic upper stage:
– Perigee: 248.1 km. for a target of 248.0 km.
– Apogee: 35,947 km. for a target of 35,941 km.
– Inclination: 3.50 deg. for a target of 3.50 deg.
To date, Arianespace has lofted 18 payloads in 2013 on six missions across its entire launcher family: the heavy-lift Ariane 5, medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega. This activity was composed of three Ariane 5 launches, and one mission each of Soyuz and Vega from the Spaceport. In addition, Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate conducted a Soyuz flight from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Arianespace’s next launch is targeted for August 29, using an Ariane 5 to orbit the Eutelsat 25B/Es’hail-1 for Es’hailSat and Eutelsat, along with GSAT-7 for the Indian Space Research Organisation.