Ariane 5 ECA launches with Nilesat-201 and RASCOM-QAF1R

by Chris Bergin

Following a scrub-prone launch campaign in June, Arianespace have enjoyed first-time success with Wednesday’s launch of their Ariane 5 ECA vehicle – her third mission of the year. The workhorse has two telecommunication passengers – Nilesat-201 and RASCOM-QAF1R – and launched slightly after the start of the long launch window.

Ariane 5 ECA:

Flight 196 is the 52nd Ariane 5 launch and the third in 2010. An Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A), the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range, will be used for this flight, launching from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Launcher 554, the 48th production phase Ariane 5, is the twenty-sixth of the 30 PA contract launchers, for which Astrium is production prime contractor. 554 is consequently the twenty-sixth complete launcher to be delivered to Arianespace, integrated and checked out under Astrium’s responsibility in the Launcher Integration Building (BIL).

Arianespace is looking to recover from the numerous issues associated with their Arabsat 5A and COMS 1 launch attempt on the 23rd, which suffered from an issue relating to the launcher subsystem late in countdown operations, resulting in a scrub for the day.

The countdown appeared to be going to plan on the following day, prior to a hold being called at T-17 seconds. With the clock reset to T-7 minutes, another attempt was made, before another hold was called at almost the same time as the earlier issue.

Lacking available time in the launch window to resolve the problem – classed as an issue with the spaceport’s launch infrastructure, a scrub was called, with the third attempt set for 48 hours later – which enjoyed an issue-free countdown, resulting with a launch at the start of the window.

For the latest campaign, Ariane 5 ECA is again using the dual-payload configuration, with the debut use of the SYLDA 5 K – seven metres high, i.e. 60 cm more than the usual SYLDA 5 A – system with an extended nose-cone (total height: 17 m), to carry the Egyptian NILESAT 201 satellite in the upper position and the African RASCOM-QAF1R satellite in the lower position.

Nilesat-201 will enable the Egyptian satellite operator Nilesat to deliver digital Direct to Home (DTH) TV and radio broadcasting and high-speed data transmission services to North Africa and the Middle East starting in September 2010.

Built on a Spacebus 4000B2 platform, Nilesat-201 is fitted with 24 Ku-band and 4 Ka-band transponders. It will be positioned at 7 degrees West longitude  and offers a design life of 15 years. Weight at launch will be about 3,200 kg, and it will generate 5.9 kW of power at end-of-life.

RASCOM-QAF1R will ensure service continuity for the operator RascomStar-QAF and its customers, by giving Africa access to advanced communications and information technologies, in particular rural telephony.

Based on the Spacebus 4000B3 platform, the RASCOM-QAF1R satellite Is equipped with 24 equivalent 36 MHz transponders in both Ku-band and C-band. The bird will provide 6.4 kW of power at end-of-life. Positioned at 2.9 degrees East longitude, RASCOM-QAF1R will cover the African continent, as well as parts of Europe and the Middle East.

RASCOM-QAF1R – which has a liftoff mass of about 3,050 kg. – will be deployed from Ariane 5’s lower passenger position at approximately 33 minutes into the flight.

The August 4 mission also will be Ariane 5’s third flight of 2010, which follows two previous dual-payload launches: the June 26 mission that orbited the Arabsat-5A and COMS spacecraft, and the May 21 launch with ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2.

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