Ariane 5 ECA launches with multi-payload

by Chris Bergin

Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle has lifted off on its fourth launch of the year, Friday evening, carrying the DirecTV 9S, Optus D1 and LDREX 2 spacecrafts into orbit. is carrying live updates, images and video of the launch from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Launch video is available for free on the link below (read more).


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‘We congratulate the launch team on the flawless lift off of DIRECTV 9S, the ninth satellite in our fleet,’ said Phil Goswitz, vice president, Space & Communications, DIRECTV, Inc.

‘DIRECTV 9S will ensure that we have the needed capacity and flexibility to provide the breadth and quality of services that our customers have come to expect. We are committed to maintaining our near perfect 99.96 percent signal availability for our customers.’


The impressive launcher will be aiming to continue its busy schedule, with the triple payload delivery for its American, Australian and Japanese customers.

The launch is the second part of Arianespace’s parallel launch campaigns, the first being the successful dual payload launch of the Ariane 5 carrying Syracuse 3B & JCSAT-10 back on August 11.

This evening’s launch is carrying the Optus D1 telecommunications/broadcast satellite for Australia’s Optus and the DIRECTV 9S television relay spacecraft for DIRECTV of the United States. Joining these two payloads will be the LDREX deployable satellite antenna demonstrator for JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

The Large Deployable Reflector Small-sized Partial Model 2 (LDREX-2) aims at verifying the performance of the LDR, which is one of the onboard mission equipment of the satellite, the Engineering Test Satellite VIII (ETS-VIII). The ETS-VIII is scheduled to be launched in 2007.

The LDREX-2 is a 1/25th scale version of the full-size ETS-8 antenna, and the demonstrator will have a diameter of 6 meters when fully deployed during the Ariane 5 mission. In its stowed configuration on the ASAP platform, the auxiliary payload is 1.9 meters long and 60 centimeters wide. It will remain in orbit for a period of time before the lightweight structure burns up in the atmosphere on re-entry.

Marie-Anne Luron, Arianespace’s project manager for the LDREX-2 payload, said the subscale antenna reflector will deploy during the Ariane 5 mission in a multi-step process that takes approximately 45 minutes. The process will be commanded by Ariane 5’s flight guidance and sequencing system, and data from the antenna’s deployment is to be downlinked in real time to the tracking station in Malindi, Kenya.

The LDREX-2/ASAP combination will be at the base of the Ariane 5’s payload stack, and the deployment will occur after the separation of the mission’s two primary passengers.

Australia’s Optus D1 satellite is the first of two high-power satellites that Orbital Sciences Corporation is building for Optus Networks of Australia. The second satellite, Optus D2, is scheduled for completion and launch in 2007.

Both of the Optus satellites are based on Orbital’s new STAR 2.4 platform, which can generate nearly five kilowatts of payload power, making them the most powerful commercial communications satellites that Orbital has produced. The Optus program’s design, manufacturing and testing activities are being carried out at Orbital’s state-of-the-art satellite production facility in Dulles, Virginia.

It will provide fixed communication and broadcasting satellite services with geographical coverage of Australia and New Zealand.

‘U.S. satellite manufacturers and telecommunications operators have represented an important part of Arianespace’s business from the very start,’ explained Clayton Mowry, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Arianespace, Inc. affiliate. ‘These clients appreciate the quality of our service, the capacity offered with Ariane’s launch cadence and dual-payload manifesting, as well as our willingness to innovate to meet the industry’s changing needs.’

The largest of the three payloads, DIRECTV 9S, was built by Space Systems/Loral, and will have a liftoff mass of about 5,500 kg. It has been installed in the upper passenger position on Ariane 5’s payload stack.

Once in orbit, it will join the satellite constellation of DIRECTV, the U.S. digital television service provider that serves more than 15.5 million customers.

Another successful mission for the Ariane will further bouy Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall, who recently took the opportunity to point out that while they are not the cheapest launch service provider, Ariane can deliver value for money, while others – notably International Launch Services (ILS) – go through a transitional period, added to their problems with the rising costs of their Proton launchers.

‘The industry now understands that Ariane 5 is the only launcher in its class that is truly operational, and which is backed by a production system that reliably builds six vehicles annually, with this rate eventually growing to seven or eight launchers per year,’ said Le Gall.

‘Our clients are telling us that some of Arianespace’s competitors are facing difficulties in building launchers to meet existing mission rates, and are far from being able to ramp-up production to handle the flurry of orders they booked at highly discounted prices.

‘Satellite manufacturers and operators are beginning to see the reality. They understand there will be launch delays with the competitors beginning next year – perhaps with some significant slippages. However, I anticipate that many satellites will be grounded because of the other launchers’ problems – with certain payloads delayed for long periods of time – which could create a fragility in the marketplace.

‘Once again, this demonstrates that you get what you pay for. With Ariane 5, our price includes the manpower, the quality control and the industrial network that comes with our commitment to the customer.’

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