The launch rhythm continues: Arianespace takes delivery of its next Ariane 5 at the Spaceport
Arianespace is keeping up the mission pace at its French Guiana base of operations with the acceptance of another heavy-lift Ariane 5, which now is being readied for the integration of a dual-satellite payload to be orbited on July 25.
The vehicle for this next Spaceport liftoff was transferred yesterday from the Spaceport’s Launcher Integration Building – where it underwent the basic build-up – to the Final Assembly Building, formally transferring authority for the Ariane 5 to Arianespace from industrial prime contractor Astrium.
Designated Flight VA214 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system (signifying the 214th liftoff of an Ariane-series vehicle), the mission will mark the 70th launch of the workhorse Ariane 5 and is to loft the INSAT-3D meteorological satellite along with the Alphasat communications relay platform.
INSAT-3D was developed by India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and carries weather forecasting payloads along with a search and rescue relay system. Its liftoff mass will be approximately 2,100 kg.
As part of the pre-launch checkout process, INSAT-3D underwent a test deployment of its solar panels in the Spaceport’s clean room facilities – which is a typical checkout step performed by ISRO with its satellites once they are in French Guiana.
Riding as co-passenger on the upcoming Ariane 5 flight is Europe’s Alphasat, which is ranked as one of the world’s most sophisticated communications satellites. Alphasat carries a new-generation advanced mobile L-band communications payload along with four technological demonstration payloads for the European Space Agency.
Built by Astrium as prime contractor, Alphasat will have a mass of more than six metric tons at launch, and is to be operated under an agreement between the European Space Agency and European commercial satellite operator Inmarsat.
The previous Spaceport missions performed by Arianespace so far this year were the June 25 medium-lift Soyuz launch that orbited O3b Networks’ first four connectivity satellites; an Ariane 5 flight on June 5 with Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, which was Ariane’s heaviest payload ever; the May 7 liftoff of Vega on this lightweight vehicle’s second flight, carrying the Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 satellites; and an Ariane 5 mission on February 7 with the Amazonas 3 and Azerspace/Africasat-1a passengers.
Completing the 2013 activity to date was a Soyuz launch from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 6, conducted by Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate with six second-generation Globalstar satellites. It marked the fourth and final mission currently contracted by Globalstar with Arianespace/Starsem for the deployment of its second-generation satellite constellation.