Arianespace have launched their first Ariane 5 of the year, lofting two satellites into orbit – Amazonas-3 and Azerspace-1 – from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch was on schedule at the opening of a 44 minute window at 21:36 UTC on Thursday.
Ariane 5 ECA Launch:
The Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A) – the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range – will be 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 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.
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This flight was designated Flight VA212 in Arianespaces numbering system, representing the 212th mission of an Ariane family launcher since the maiden liftoff of an Ariane 1 version in 1979. The launch was also the 68th Ariane 5 liftoff.
The total payload performance for this mission was approximately 10,350 kg – which includes the two satellite passengers and their integration hardware for Ariane 5′s dual-payload deployment system.
Riding in the upper position of Ariane 5’s payload “stack” is Amazonas 3 – the seventh Spanish satellite to be launched by Arianespace.
Built by Space Systems/Loral for the HISPASAT Group, Amazonas 3 will provide telecommunications relay services over the Americas, Europe, and North Africa, delivering direct-to-home television (DTH), corporate fixed and mobile telephone networks and broadband capacity.
The 6,265-kg.-class relay platform is equipped with 33 Ku-band and 19 C-band transponders, along with nine Ka-band spot beams, and has been designed to provide telecommunications relay services.
The satellite will help with the capacity demands during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – the world’s biggest sporting event, which gains billions in TV viewers.
Azerspace/Africasat-1a is located in the lower portion of Ariane 5’s payload stack, and it carries 24 C-band transponders and 12 Ku-band transponders to deliver communications coverage for Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Europe and Africa.
Produced by Orbital Sciences Corporation under contract to the Republic of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies for satellite operator Azercosmos, it will be the initial satellite orbited by Arianespace for this nation situated in the Caucasus region.
The satellite is based on Orbital’s STAR-2 platform with a designed mission life of 15 years.
A total of six Ariane 5 flights are scheduled from the Spaceport this year, along with four medium-lift Soyuz launches and one with the light-lift Vega.
In addition, Arianespace opened their 2013 campaign with the launch of the final batch of six satellites for Globalstar’s second-generation constellation on a Soyuz mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome, under the flag of the company’s Starsem affiliate.
(Images via Arianespace)