An Ariane 5 ECA returned to action on Thursday evening, lofting two satellites into space. ArSat-1 and Intelsat DLA-1 (Intelsat 30) rode uphill on the Arianespace workhorse out of the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Lift off came midway through a 51 minute launch window that opened at 21:44 GMT, following a weather and satellite related hold.
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.
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 VA220 in the company’s numbering system – was the fifth Ariane 5 liftoff from the Spaceport this year and the 76th launch of this heavy-lift workhorse, which has now performed 62 successful flights in a row.
Flight 220 involved the L574 launcher, the twentieth to be delivered by Airbus Defence and Space to Arianespace as part of the PB production batch.
The PB production contract was signed in March 2009 to guarantee continuity of the launch service after completion of the PA batch comprising 30 launchers.
The PB production batch comprises 35 Ariane 5 ECA launchers and covers the period from 2010 to 2016.
At the end of 2013, a further 18 ECA launchers were ordered, scheduled for launch in 2017. L574 is consequently the fiftieth complete launcher to be delivered to Arianespace, integrated and checked out under Airbus Defence and Space responsibility in the Launcher Integration Building (BIL).
The payload lift performance for this flight was estimated at 10,060 kg., which included a combined total of approximately 9,305 kg. for the two passengers – Intelsat 30, hosting the DLA-1 payload, and ArSat-1 – as well as the launcher’s SYLDA dual-passenger dispenser system and satellite integration hardware.
The 2,973 kg ArSat-1 was produced for Argentine satellite operator ARSAT (Empresa Argentina de Soluciones Satelitales Sociedad Anonima) by the company INVAP, with Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space as leading equipment suppliers.
The spacecraft is set to deliver a wide range of telecommunications, data transmission, telephone and television services across all of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay – operating from an orbital position of 72 degrees West following its deployment by Ariane 5.
The ARSAT-1 satellite was orbited along with its co-passenger, Intelsat DLA-1, via Ariane 5’s trademark dual-payload missions.
The 6,320 kg Intelsat DLA-1 – riding as the upper passenger – was deployed first, at approximately 27 minutes into the flight, around six minutes ahead of ArSat-1’s release.
Built for international operator Intelsat by SSL (Space Systems/Loral), DLA-1 – together with the DLA-2 satellite that will be lofted on a future flight – is to greatly expand direct-to-home entertainment offerings in Latin America, as well as provide backup and restoration services.
Intelsat 30, based on the FS-1300 platform from Space Systems LORAL is the 135th satellite in the INTELSAT S.A. fleet and the 54th satellite entrusted by INTELSAT S.A. to the range of Ariane launchers.
It sports 72 Ku-band transponders and 10 C-band transponders. It is expected to have a service life of 15 years.
The Intelsat 31 satellite, equivalent to Intelsat 30, will be launched next year and will operate from the same orbital position.
(Images via Arianespace and Space Airbus)