Ariane 5 ECA launches JCSAT-13 and VINASAT-2 into orbit

by Chris Bergin

Arianespace have returned their Ariane 5 ECA back into action on Tuesday, launching two more telecommunication satellites into orbit – namely JCSAT-13 and VINASAT-2. Launch from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana was on schedule at the start of a two hour launch window that opened at 10:13pm GMT.

Ariane 5 ECA Mission:

The Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A) – the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range – was used for this flight. The Ariane 5 ECA is an improved Ariane 5 Generic launcher.

Although it has the same general architecture, a number of major changes were made to the basic structure of the Ariane 5 Generic version to increase thrust and enable it to carry heavier payloads into orbit.

Designed to place payloads weighing up to 9.6 tonnes into GTO, this increased capacity allows the Ariane 5 ECA to handle dual launches of very large satellites.

Given Arianespace now enjoys a full family of launch vehicles – following the introduction of the Soyuz and Vega rockets at the Spaceport – company has adopted a new numbering system to identify its missions with these three vehicles.

As such, Ariane 5 flights carry the “VA” designation, followed by the flight number.  The “V” is for “vol,” the French word for “flight,” while the “A” represents the use of an Ariane launch vehicle.  As a result, this latest mission will carry the “VA206” reference, for the 206th launch of an Ariane since this family of vehicles began operations in 1979.

With the introduction of Soyuz at the Spaceport in 2011, Arianespace missions from South America with the medium-lift workhorse launcher are being designated “VS,” while flights with the lightweight Vega vehicle are referenced as “VV”, following its successful debut this year.

This was the second Ariane 5 flight of 2012, with a payload performance of over 8,300 kg. – which included a combined mass of more than 7,500 kg. for JCSAT-13 and VINASAT-2, along with the launcher’s dual-payload dispenser system and associated integration hardware.

Riding as the upper passenger in Ariane 5’s payload “stack” is JCSAT-13, which was released at approximately 26 minutes into the flight.

“This launch marks a historic company milestone,” said Kevin Bilger, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of Global Communications Systems. 

“Delivery of our 100th and 101st commercial geostationary satellites exemplifies the dedication of the men and women, past and present, who continue to deliver affordable, high quality advanced communications systems to meet our customers’ mission needs. 

“I salute all of our employees, supplier partners and customers who made this moment possible.”

JCSAT-13 will be utilized by SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, the broadcasting and communications services provider created through the merger of JSAT Corporation, SKY Perfect Communications, Inc., and Space Communications Corporation. 

This telecommunications spacecraft will be positioned in geostationary orbit at 124 degrees East  from which it is to provide direct TV broadcast links to all of Japan as a replacement satellite for JCSAT-4A, and also will meet satellite relay coverage demands in Southeast Asia.

JCSAT-13 is configured with an all Ku-band payload, comprising 44 high-power communication channels with uplink and downlink coverage. It has been designed to operate for 15 years.

Arianespace’s most recent mission with a satellite for this operator was BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R, orbited last August by an Ariane 5.

VINASAT-2 – which is to be operated by Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group – was deployed from Ariane 5’s lower passenger position at just over 36 minutes after liftoff.

From an orbital position of 131.8 degrees East, this satellite will provide fixed satellite service to Vietnam and neighboring countries.

This satellite features 24 Ku-band channels providing uplink and downlink coverage, and also has a design life of 15 years – although it is carrying additional fuel reserves to maximize its maneuvering longevity.

VINASAT-2 is follows Arianespace’s launch of VINASAT-1 as Vietnam’s first communications satellite – which was lofted by an Ariane 5 in April 2008.

Both payloads on this heavy-lift launch are Lockheed Martin spacecraft based on the company’s A2100 geosynchronous spacecraft series. They are the milestone 100th and 101st commercial geostationary communications satellites built by Lockheed Martin.

“Lockheed Martin is extremely proud to share this historic moment with SKY Perfect JSAT and VNPT, both of whom continue to entrust Lockheed Martin with their satellite communications solutions,” added Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems president Joseph Rickers. 

“Our team is now focused on executing our integrated orbit-raising plan and we look forward to hand-over, when these two satellites can begin their many years of service for our customers.”

This mission marked Ariane 5’s return to satellite launching, following the heavy-lift workhorse’s March 23 orbiting of Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) for resupply of the International Space Station (ISS).

(Images via Arianespace).

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