LIVE: Ariane 5 ECA launches with JCSAT-12 and Optus D3

by Chris Bergin

Arianespace’s Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle lifted-off with two space two telecommunication satellites – JCSAT-12 and Optus D3 – on Friday, and successfully placed them into their transfer orbit, following launch from the European Spaceport in French Guiana, at the start of a 60 minute launch window that opened at 6:09pm Eastern.

Launch Preview:

Ariane 5 is the workhorse of the growing Arianespace fleet, which will soon see launches from its smaller Vega launch vehicle, in addition with Soyuz launches from French Guiana.

The processing from the Ariane 5 continues to undergo modifications, in tandem with its increasing flight rate. The latest change saw a streamlined build-up process for Ariane 5, as the ESC-A cryogenic upper stage and equipment bay were installed as a single unit – having been integrated and checked out in Europe by EADS Astrium, then shipped to the Spaceport.

In the prior procedure, Ariane 5’s upper stage and vehicle equipment bay were installed on the launcher in two steps at the Spaceport, which required additional time and validation procedures.

JCSAT-12 will ride as the flight’s upper passenger and is to be deployed first in the mission sequence, with its release from atop the SYLDA dispenser occurring at approximately 27 minutes into the mission.

The cylindrical-shaped SYLDA structure will then be jettisoned, exposing Ariane 5’s lower passenger – the Optus D3 spacecraft – which will be deployed at just over 34 minutes after lift-off.

The high-power hybrid JCSAT-12 satellite is based on Lockheed Martin’s A2100 spacecraft bus, and carries 30 active Ku-band transponders and 12 active C-band transponders for coverage of Japan, the Asia-Pacific region and Hawaii.

It will be operated by SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation – one of Asia’s largest satellite operators, and Japan’s only provider of both multi-channel pay TV broadcasting and satellite communications services.

The A2100 spacecraft’s design accommodates a large range of communication payloads. This design modularity also enables the A2100 spacecraft to be configured for missions other than communication. The A2100 design has been adapted for geostationary earth orbit (GEO)-based earth observing missions and is the baselined platform for Lockheed Martin’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Series-R (GOES-R).

In addition, the A2100 serves as the platform for critical government communications programs including the Advanced Extremely High Frequency and Mobile User Objective System. The A2100 also serves as the spacecraft platform for Lockheed Martin’s GPS III program.

With a lift-off mass of approximately 4,000 kg., JCSAT-12 carries 30 Ku-band transponders and 12 C-band transponders. This spacecraft will serve as the successor to JCSAT-R, which currently is in geostationary orbit as a backup relay platform – ensuring the stability of SKY Perfect JSAT’s satellite fleet for highly reliable space-based communications services.

JCSAT-12 has a design lifetime of 15 years, and will offer coverage over Japan, the Oceania and Asia-Pacific regions, as well as Hawaii. Once operational, it will be referred to as JCSAT-RA.

Joining JCSAT-12 for launch will be Optus D3, an Orbital Sciences Corporation-built spacecraft for Australia’s Optus, which will handle direct TV broadcast, Internet, telephony and data transmission services across Australia and New Zealand.

It is the third D-series satellite produced by Orbital for the Australian-based Optus telecommunications provider. The two previous spacecraft were launched by Ariane 5 missions in October 2006 and October 2007.

Optus D3 is based on Orbital’s STAR platform and will provide Ku-band fixed communications and direct television broadcasting services to Australia and New Zealand. As the most powerful spacecraft in the D-series, Optus D3 will generate approximately five kilowatts of payload power to service up to 32 active transponders.

The three-axis stabilized Optus D3 will have a lift-off mass of 2,500 kg., and is designed for a 15-year mission lifetime at the service of Australia’s Optus telecommunications provider. Payload power is 5 kW, with the spacecraft providing its relay services through a pair of 2.3-meter deployable dual-shell gridded shaped reflectors.

Arianespace is planning seven Ariane 5 missions in 2009, with the August 21 flight to be its fourth of the year.

The previous launches were conducted on July 1, (withTerreStar-1, the world’s largest commercial satellite), on May 14 (with Europe’s Herschel and Planck deep space telescopes), and on February 12 (orbiting the HOT BIRD 10 and NSS-9 commercial telecommunications satellites, along with a pair of Spirale auxiliary passengers for the French defense procurement agency).

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