Ariane 5 ECA lofts Astra 5B and Amazonas 4A

by Chris Bergin

Arianespace lofted another two more satellites into orbit – namely Astra 5B and Amazonas 4A – via their Ariane 5 ECA rocket on Saturday. Launch from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana was delayed by 24 hours due to unacceptable rollout weather. However, Saturday proved to be no problem, with launch occurring at the opening of the window at 10:04pm UTC.

Ariane 5 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 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 VA216 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system and was the 218th launch since operations began with the Ariane series of vehicles in 1979, as well as the 75th flight for the heavy-lift Ariane 5 version.

Riding in the upper position of Ariane 5’s payload “stack” was ASTRA 5B, which will be utilized to extend SES’ transponder capacity and geographical reach over Eastern European and neighboring markets for direct-to-home, direct-to-cable and contribution feeds to digital terrestrial television networks.

Z9ASTRA 5B was built by Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Astrium) in Toulouse, France, based on the Eurostar E3000 platform. With an estimated liftoff mass of 5,800 kg multi-mission satellite will be located at 31.5 degrees East and carry Ku and Ka-band payloads for the delivery of high-performance Direct-to-Home (DTH) in Eastern Europe and the neighboring markets.

Built by Astrium, ASTRA 5B also carries a hosted L-band payload for the European Commission’s European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).

“The launch of ASTRA 5B will be the 39th launch of an SES satellite on board a European Arianespace launch vehicle,” noted Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES.

“Our long-standing relationship is based on this proven track record and shows the continuous confidence we have in Arianespace and our commitment to Ariane as a launch vehicle. We look forward to a successful mission with this longstanding launch partner.”

The lower passenger was HISPASAT’s Amazonas 4A, which will be located at an orbital position 61 degrees West after its deployment by the Ariane 5.

Z8This Orbital Sciences Corporation-produced telecommunications platform will enhance HISPASAT’s relay capacity over Latin America to provide an extended range of communications and television services. With a launch mass of 3,000 kg., Amazonas 4A has a design lifespan of 15 years.

Orbital’s newest satellite delivery represents the 150th spacecraft Orbital has completed for customers in the past 32 years, spanning the global commercial, civil government and military and intelligence space systems markets.

Of these, 78 have carried out commercial communications and imaging missions and 72 have supported government scientific, national security and space exploration missions.

Amazonas 4A was Orbital’s 33rd GEOStar commercial communications satellite to be launched into orbit. Orbital-built satellites have now amassed about 1,100 years of in-orbit experience, a number that will continue to grow as the company is scheduled to deploy up to nine spacecraft in 2014 for commercial communications, space station logistics, scientific research and national security missions.

Z10“I want to thank HISPASAT for their confidence in Orbital on this important mission, which will bring significant additional capacity to their Latin American customers for a variety of television and other communications services,” said Mr. Christopher Richmond, Orbital’s Senior Vice President of Communications Satellites.

“The Amazonas 4A communications satellite will be the latest in a growing in-orbit fleet of GEOStar communications satellites owned and operated by customers in every part of the world. We are looking forward to another successful Ariane launch tomorrow and are eager to begin in-orbit testing operations, leading to the commissioning of the satellite for HISPASAT in April.”

Following its deployment into a geosynchronous transfer orbit, the Amazonas 4A satellite will undergo several weeks of in-orbit testing to verify that all major subsystems are operating as planned.

Once testing is complete, the spacecraft will be commanded to fire its thrusters to position it at a final orbital location of 61 degrees West Longitude. Day-to-day operations of Amazonas 4A will then be transferred to HISPASAT’s operational team in Madrid.

(Images via Arianespace).

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