Ariane 5 ECA in record launch

by Chris Bergin

An Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle carrying the Satmex 6 and THAICOM 5 communication satellites into geostationary transfer orbits has launched from the European Space Agency spaceport in French Guiana. This mission saw the heaviest dual payload ever launched into a GTO. covered the launch as a live event, with background, live updates, images and video freely available to all readers.

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Mission preview:

The launch, which has suffered a slight delay from its planned launch date, follows the Ariane 5 ECA’s dual-payload mission success of March 11.

Satmex 6 is based on a Space Systems/Loral FS-1300X satellite bus and is one of the most powerful telecommunications satellites to offer coverage over the Americas.

It carries 36 C-band transponders for Continental U.S. and South America and Continental coverage, along with and 24 Ku-Band transponders serving the U.S., Mexico and Continental regions, with a hot spot over the major cities in South America.

The satellite will have a mass at liftoff of approximately 5,700 kg., and is to be operated by Mexico’s Satellites Mexicanos, S.A. de C.V.

The Alcatel Alenia Space-built THAICOM 5 spacecraft, which will provide telecom and television services throughout the Asia/Pacific region from its orbital position at 78.5 degrees East. It will be equipped with 14 Ku-band transponders and 24 C-band transponders, and is to have a launch mass of around 2,800 kg.

Operated by Shin Satellite Inc. of Thailand, THAICOM 5 will eventually replace the company’s older THAICOM 1 and 2 satellite.

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Arianespace Chief Executive Officer Jean-Yves Le Gall said the company remains on track for a busy 2006 – with a full manifest of six Ariane 5 launches targeted during the year.

‘We have a mature vehicle with the heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA, and this capable launcher is backed up by a highly motivated workforce and a proven industrial production system,’ Le Gall explained to invitees at the Customer Seminar, which brought together representatives from international satellite operators, spacecraft manufacturers and space agencies for a two-day briefing at the Spaceport.

Le Gall noted tonight’s launch will set another payload record for a mission to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), with the launcher’s Satmex 6 and Thaicom 5 satellite passengers weighing in at a combined payload mass of 8.3 metric tons.

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