An Ariane 5 ECA was back in action on Sunday evening, lofting another pair of satellites into space. Thor 7 and SICRAL 2 rode uphill on the Arianespace workhorse out of the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana – lifting off at a T-0 of 20:00 UTC – following a short delay relating to an anomaly early into the initial countdown checks on Friday.
Ariane 5 Mission:
The Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A) – the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range – was used 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.
Arianespace will also be at the center of a new launch vehicle, the Ariane 6, which has been approved by the ESA members.
The three-stage vehicle will be capable of lofting 4.5 ton payloads to polar/Sun-synchronous orbits missions at 800 km altitude and between three and 10 tons on GTO missions.
The vehicle’s main stage utilizes the liquid oxygen and hydrogen Vulcain engine of Ariane 5 ECA and ME, complimented by two – or four – P120 solid rocket boosters, which will be common with Vega-C – an evolution of the current Vega launcher.
It will also sport a cryogenic upper stage (LOX/LH2) propelled by a Vinci engine, based on the A5ME upper stage, with limited adaptations. Ariane 6 will sport both A62 (for two boosters) and A64 (for four boosters) configuration.
The Ariane 5 in action for this latest mission was set to launch on Friday. However, an issue after rollout relating to a helium line, resulted in rollback for repairs.
Approving the launch for Sunday, this mission – with the designation of Flight VA222 in the company’s numbering system – was the 222nd liftoff of an Ariane-series vehicle since 1979.
It also marked Arianespace’s third flight in 2015 with a launcher from its three-member family – following the medium-lift Soyuz mission on March 27 that orbited two European Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capability) navigation satellites, and February 11’s lightweight Vega suborbital flight with Europe’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) spaceplane.
For this 78th overall flight of an Ariane 5, the payload lift performance was estimated at 9,850 kg. – which included a combined total of some 9,000 kg. for the two satellites, plus the launcher’s dual-passenger dispenser system (SYLDA) and integration hardware.
The lower passenger was SICRAL 2, set to become part of Italy’s military satellite communications system.
This geostationary satellite will operate in the UHF and SHF bands, with the ability to enhance the capability of military satellite communications already offered by SICRAL 1 and SICRAL 1B and by France’s Syracuse System.
Separated by the SYLDA (SYstème de Lancement Double Ariane), Thor 7 rode as the upper passenger during this launch.
THOR 7 is a multi-mission satellite equipped with Telenor’s first high-performance Ka-band payload, designed to serve the maritime market.
The spacecraft’s Ka-band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) payload will offer 6-9 Gbps throughput with up to 25 simultaneously active spot beams – providing high powered coverage over the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Red Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean.
The satellite also has a Ku-band payload for broadcast and television services in Central and Eastern Europe and is built on the SSL 1300 platform.
“SSL and Telenor Satellite Broadcasting share a commitment to providing satellites and services that improve the human experience,” said John Celli, President of SSL.
“We are pleased that THOR 7 is ready to ship and we look forward to working with TSBc and Arianespace on the final preparations for launch.”
THOR 7 was designed with up to 25 “simultaneously active” Ka-band spot beams and a steerable beam. Its Ku-band payload includes 11 transponders.
When launched, THOR 7 will be positioned at 1 degree West longitude and is designed to provide service for 15 years or more.
“The satellite built by SSL will deliver a very bandwidth efficient and flexible service for major shipping routes and recreational vessels,” added Morten Tengs, Vice President and CEO of Telenor Satellite Broadcasting.
“With the launch of THOR 7, our growth satellite, we look forward to further extending our position in the market and expanding our European coverage.”
(Images via SSL and Arianespace).