Arianespace have launched their fifth mission of the year via their Ariane 5 ECA, carrying the Skynet 5B for the British Ministry Of Defence (MoD) and Star One C1 telecommunications satellite. Launch was at10:06 GMT from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) in Kourou, French Guiana.
NASASpaceflight.com covered the launch as a live event, with background, images, live updates and free launch video available on the links below (read more).
L2 Resources: Ariane 4, Ariane 5, Vega, Soyuz Launch Vehicle Manuals. Pictures of Soyuz launch complex construction at Kourou, plus more.
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Six launches are planned by Arianespace in 2007, with this launch being the 35th Ariane 5 launch, and the 179th flight of an Ariane launcher in space flight history.
Tonight’s launch has suffered from a couple of short delays. The original launch date was postponed when engineers found an electronic glitch on the vehicle, leading to the rollback of the stack for repairs. Monday’s rescheduled launch date was then delayed 48 hours, following a fault that was detected with the launch pad GSE (Ground Support Equipment).
The launcher will be carrying a total payload of 9,535 kg, including 8,735 kg for the two satellites, which will be released separately into their targeted orbits.
The Thales Alenia Space’s Star One C1 spacecraft will be utilized by Brazilian satellite operator Star One – which is owned by Embratel and GE International Holdings – Star One C1 will provide telecommunications, multimedia and high speed internet services to South America.
The spacecraft is based on Thales Alenia Space’s Spacebus 3000 B3 platform, and carries 28 C-band transponders, 14 Ku-band transponders and 1 X-band transponder. It will have a mass at lift-off of 4,100 kg., and is to be positioned at 65 degrees West after its deployment by Ariane 5.
The UK’s Skynet 5B spacecraft was manufactured by EADS Astrium, providing an in-orbit delivery to Paradigm Secure Communications, a private company. Paradigm provides survivable, resilient and secure communications services to military and government users with the Skynet series of relay satellites.
Skynet 5B has a lift-off mass of 4,635-kg., and when operational, it will handle secure communications services for the British armed forces, NATO and other countries.
The Â£3.6bn Skynet project represents the largest ever space venture from the UK – which is becoming ever-more interested in pushing forward its space ambitions, following the political collapse in interest during Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s term in office in the 1980s.
The Skynet 5 constellation involves three spacecraft, the first of which – Skynet 5A – was launched back in March. They will replace Skynet 4, increasing the data transfer capability for the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Skynet 5A is already aiding operations being conducted by British forces in the theatres of Afghanistan and Iraq, with an increase of 2.5 times the capacity afforded by the previous system, required for modern warfare.
Recently, Skynet 5A allowed video from the British Army’s new Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Afghanistan – used to gather intelligence on Taliban activities – to be beamed back to the UK for live analysis.
The Skynet 5 programme will now run until 2020, following a contract extension relating to the use of a third Skynet 5 spacecraft to be used as an on orbit space, along with a part-built fourth satellite, should a problem arise with the operational spacecrafts.
‘We are providing our Armed Forces with an even better long term communication service deal than the excellent one that is already available,’ noted Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson.
‘We are all very excited about the launch of Skynet 5B,’ added Malcolm Peto, managing director of Paradigm. ‘The programme continues to deliver success and is an excellent example of what can be achieved with co-operation between industry and the Ministry of Defence.’
Meanwhile, Arianespace are already making preparations for their sixth and final launch of the year, when an Ariane 5 GS will launch the Rascom 1 and Horizons-2 telecommunications satellites into orbit next month.
Full mission background is available on the live event page – linked above.