Ariane 5 launches with Helios 2B spy satellite

by Chris Bergin

The seventh and final Ariane 5 launch for 2009 has launched at the second attempt on Friday – following a 24 hour scrub due to an unspecified issue with the launch platform. The Ariane 5 GS’s mission is to launch the Helios 2B spy satellite from the European Spaceport in French Guiana is behalf of the French Space Agency.

Ariane 5/Helios 2B Preview:

An Ariane 5 GS is being used for this 49th launch of Arianespace’s workhorse vehicle. The GS version is tailored for low-Earth orbit payloads such as Helios 2B, and is operated along with the Ariane 5 ECA on missions to geostationary transfer orbit that carry telecommunications satellite payloads.

As a result, Arianespace utilizes two standardized launcher configurations, ensuring what they describe as high reliability and availability through production repeatability.

The launch was scrubbed on its opening December 9 attempt due to “an issue with the launcher subsystem” – which has since been replaced.

The 193rd Ariane mission will place the HELIOS 2B military observation satellite into sun-synchronous polar orbit. The Ariane 5 GS launcher will be carrying a total payload of 5,954 kg, including the HELIOS 2B satellite, which will be released into its targeted orbit. The launch will be from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3).

Helios 2B will be the latest in a family of military observation satellites launched by Ariane, and this payload was built by EADS Astrium. Arianespace’s customer on the upcoming mission is the CNES French space agency.

This bird is the second satellite in a new-generation spaceborne observation system for military applications that has been created by France in conjunction with Belgium, Spain, Italy and Greece.

All of the previous Helios 2 and Helios 1 satellites have been launched by Ariane vehicles, beginning with Helios 1A in July 1995.

Helios 2B will weigh approximately 4,200 kg. at liftoff and was produced by EADS Astrium as prime contractor. The satellite’s European industrial team also includes Thales Alenia Space, which supplied the reconnaissance satellite’s high resolution imaging instrument.

Managing the Helios 2B program is the French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction générale de l’armement). The DGA assigned contracting authority for the space segment to the French CNES space agency.

Ariane 5 has flown two other missions in 2009 with military payloads. Germany’s COMSATBw-1 secure communications satellite was launched October 1, and a pair of Spirale auxiliary passengers was orbited on February 12 to serve as demonstrators for a future French defense early warning system.

Arianespace also marked a historic milestone recently, with the arrival of its first two Soyuz launchers in French Guiana. This medium-lift vehicle will enter service next year from the Spaceport, joining the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and subsequently the lightweight Vega.

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