Arianespace have launched their Ariane 5 ECA on a mission to loft two satellites into orbit – Intelsat 20 and Hylas 2 – from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch was on schedule at 8:54pm UTC on Thursday evening, as the workhorse carried its two passengers to GTO.
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 – the 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” stands for “vol,” the French word for “flight,” while the “A” represents the use of an Ariane launch vehicle.
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 flight was designated Flight VA208 in Arianespace’s numbering system, representing the 208th mission of an Ariane family launcher since the maiden liftoff of an Ariane 1 version in 1979. The success was the 50th in a row for the Ariane 5.
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The Ariane 5 carried a total payload performance of approximately 10,180 kg. – which includes the HYLAS 2 and Intelsat 20 satellites, along with hardware for the launcher’s dual-payload deployment system. This was a new record for Ariane 5 ECA’s payload performance to GTO.
The satellite is equipped with 24 Ka-band transponders with one steerable beam and will provide data capacity to telecommunications, enterprise and government customers in Europe, the Middle East and portions of Africa.
Along with its active Ka-band user beams, the satellite sports six gateway beams and will produce approximately 5.0 kilowatts of payload electrical power.
“HYLAS 2 introduces a new market application for Orbital’s commercial communications satellites, bringing broadband communications into the range of space systems we offer our customers,” said Mr. Christopher Richmond, Orbital’s Senior Vice President of Communications Satellites.
“The HYLAS 2 spacecraft is one of the most sophisticated commercial satellites we have ever built and we are looking forward to putting it to work for our Avanti customer.”
Also lofted with HYLAS 2 on this mission was Intelsat’s Intelsat 20 satellite, which is to replace the Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 10 spacecraft in orbit, and provide a broad range of communication services for Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Asia. Intelsat 20 is riding to orbit as the upper position of the payload stack.
Intelsat are continuing their high launch pace of replenishing and expanding their on-orbit fleet, using multiple launch vehicle systems and providers.
Weighing approximately 6,090 kg. at launch, Intelsat 20 was built for international satellite operator Intelsat by Space Systems/Loral of the United States, based on its 1300-series platform.
This relay platform’s C- and Ku-band payload is optimized for high-power distribution of video, voice and data network services.
This flight marked the fourth for Arianespace’s heavy-lift launcher in 2012. Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle for the International Space Station was orbited by Ariane 5 in March, and the JCSAT-13 and VINASAT-2 spacecraft were lofted during May.
(Images via Arianespace).