Ariane 5 ECA launches with ABS-2 and Athena-Fidus

by Chris Bergin

Arianespace launched another two satellites into orbit – namely ABS-2 and Athena-Fidus – via their Ariane 5 ECA rocket on Thursday. Launch from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana was delayed from the opening of a long 125 minute launch window, due to poor weather at the launch site, before successfully launching an hour later.

Ariane 5 ECA Launch:

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 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 in 2012.

Ariane 5This mission was designated Flight VA217 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system and was the 217th launch since operations began with the Ariane series of vehicles in 1979, as well as the 73rd flight for the heavy-lift Ariane 5 version.

The payload lift performance for Arianespace’s latest Ariane 5 flight was approximately 10,210 kg., which includes a combined total of some 9,410 kg. for ABS-2 and Athena-Fidus, along with the launcher’s SYLDA dual-passenger dispenser system and satellite integration hardware.

Produced by Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California, ABS-2 is based on the company’s 1300-series platform – designed to provide multiple services for global satellite operator ABS, including direct-to-home and cable television distribution, VSAT (very-small-aperture terminal) services, data networks and telecommunications across four continents.

Z5It has a designed mission life of 15 years or more, and will operate from ABS’ prime orbital location of 75 deg. East longitude after its deployment by Ariane 5. Athena-Fidus was released second from Ariane 5’s lower payload position.

The satellite has been outfitted with 89 active C-band, Ku-band and Ka-band transponders across 10 different beams. These include six dedicated Ku-Band beams for direct-to-home television services in the Eastern Hemisphere and C-Band beams for Africa and Southeast Asia connectivity requirements.

Its Ka-Band beam is positioned over the Middle East and North African region to provide service for commercial and military applications.

Z7The other passenger was Athena-Fidus, a French-Italian telecommunications satellite that uses state-of-the-art civil broadband Internet technologies. Funded jointly by French space agency CNES, French defense procurement agency DGA, Italian space agency ASI and the Italian Ministry of Defense, it will provide communications services to both armed forces and civil security agencies in France and Italy.

Program prime contractor Thales Alenia Space produced Athena-Fidus using its Spacebus 4000B2 platform, with the satellite equipped to deploy the latest civil telecom standards – DVB-RCS and DVB-S2 – to ensure optimum transmission capacity and service availability.

It weighed more than 3,000 kg. at launch, and has a design life exceeding 15 years.

“We would like to thank the clients of these two launches for their trust, and in particular the Luxembourg operator SES for accepting the February launch,” noted Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace.

“The excellent collaboration between our teams has enabled us to plan these two missions for the early weeks of 2014. Once again Arianespace has shown commitment and flexibility in serving its clients.”

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The next launch, with VA216, is tasked with carrying the Astra 5B and Amazonas 4A satellites. The mission is currently scheduled for March 7, 2014.

The first 2014 launch of the Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center, will be via the VS07 rocket, carrying the Sentinel 1B satellite. This launch is scheduled for set for March 28.

Arianespace’s complete launcher family will be active from the Spaceport in 2014, with six Ariane 5 liftoffs, four Soyuz flights and two lightweight Vega launches targeted for this year to meet the company’s objective of 12 total missions.

(Images via Arianespace).

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