Ariane 5 ECA finally launches

by Chris Bergin

Arianespace have launched their Ariane 5 ECA, on the fourth attempt, carrying two telecommunication satellites into separate orbits.

The launch countdown still had a few problems with the software integration between the launch pad and the Ariane 5 ECA, but the vehicle finally lifted off at 22:34 UTC, as it rose into cloud in a picture perfect launch ascent.

**Live launch coverage update and background thread**

Previous Scrub

Arianespace were forced to scrub the third attempt to launch their Ariane 5 ECA, with just four minutes remaining on tonight’s countdown.

A ground support fault displayed as a red light on the mission status board, just prior to what would have been an on-time launch.

Arianespace announced a helium leak from a storage sphere at the pad – leading to an inability to get the launcher up to the correct flight pressures to make another attempt within the launch window. The count had been re-set to T-12 minutes.

Mission preview:

Live webcast, click image:

The launch will take place at the European Space Agency (ESA) spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana – where a full launch dress rehearsal took place on Monday.

Coming off the back of a hugely successful 2005, Arianespace will be marking their 26th launch of their Ariane launcher family, with the 10-ton ECA being the top of their range.

Paris-based Eutelsat is a loyal customer of Arianespace, and their Hotbird 7A will be the 21st satellite to be launched via an Ariane for their company. Eutelsat broadcasts 850 television channels and 550 radio stations to 110 million homes in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The 4.1 tonnes satellite will be a companion to their Hotbird currently in orbit – and will take up an orbital position at 13 degrees East, over Gabon.

Less is known about the 7 ton Spainsat, given it is the first satellite to be launched with the singular purpose of secure communications for the Spanish government, military and security services. It was built by Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California – and will be operated by the Spanish military operator Hisdesat.

Spainsat consists of 13 X-band transponders, plus one Ka-band transponder – and will be positioned at 30 degrees West, placing it over the Atlantic ocean.

The Ariane 5 ECA stack was rolled out of its assembly facility yesterday in rainy conditions, making the 2.8km journey by rail to the ELA-3 launch zone.



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