An Ariane 5 ECA has successfully launched two telecommunication satellites on Thursday. Optus 10 and MEASAT-3b both rode uphill on the Arianespace workhorse out of the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, following lift off late in the launch window – due to two technical holds – at 22:05 GMT.
Ariane 5 Mission:
The Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A) – the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range – is being 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.
Notably, the future of the Soyuz with Arianespace is now somewhat in doubt, following the issue with the recently launch of two Galileo satellites that were deployed into the wrong orbit.
Thursday’s mission – designated Flight VA218 in the company’s numbering system – was the fourth Ariane 5 liftoff from the Spaceport this year and the 75th launch of this heavy-lift workhorse, which has performed 60 successful flights in a row.
Total payload performance for Flight VA218 was estimated at nearly 10,090 kg., which included approximately 9,160 kg. for MEASAT-3b and Optus 10 combined, plus Ariane 5’s SYLDA dispenser system and satellite integration hardware.
MEASAT-3b is equipped with 48 high-power Ku-band transponders to expand direct-to-home broadcasting and VSAT (very small aperture terminal) services across Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Australia.
Operated by MEASAT – a Malaysian-based premium supplier of satellite relay services to international broadcasters, direct-to-home platforms and telecom operators – MEASAT-3b will be co-located at the 91.5 deg. East orbital position along with the MEASAT-3 and MEASAT-3a satellites.
“MEASAT-3b was initiated in June 2011. This spacecraft, Malaysia’s largest and most advanced to date, is the result of more than three year’s cooperation between MEASAT, Airbus Defence and Space, the satellite manufacturer, and Arianespace, the satellite launch service provider,” said Paul Brown-Kenyon, Chief Executive Officer, MEASAT Satellite Systems Sdn. Bhd – ahead of the mission.
“We look forward to a successful launch.”
The MEASAT fleet includes the state-of-the-art MEASAT-3 and MEASAT-3a satellites at 91.5 degrees E supporting Asia’s premium DTH and video distribution neighborhood; MEASAT-2 at 148.0 degrees E; and, MEASAT-5 at 119.5 degrees E.
In Africa, the AFRICASAT-1a satellite at 46.0 degrees E provides satellite capacity across the African continent with connectivity to Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia.
The MEASAT fleet will be further strengthened with the addition of MEASAT-3b, and MEASAT-3c – which is due to be launched in 2015.
Optus 10 was built by SSL (Space Systems/Loral) for Australian telecommunications service provider Optus. Problems with the satellite ultimately caused a delay to the launch date target.
This satellite is outfitted with 24 Ku-band transponders to provide direct TV broadcast, internet connectivity, telephone and data transmission services for Australia and New Zealand.
Optus 10 was the sixth satellite launched by Arianespace for Optus.
MEASAT-3b was released first into geostationary transfer orbit, followed by separation of the SYLDA dispenser – enabling Optus 10’s subsequent deployment.