Arianespace has conducted the fourth Ariane 5 launch of the year with the lofting of the Inmarsat S EAN/HellasSat 3 and GSAT-17 satellites from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on Wednesday. Lift off occurred at 21:15 UTC, 16 minutes into the launch window following a short hold.
Ariane 5 Launch:
The Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A) – the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range of rockets – was employed once again for this flight, a vehicle that is an improved version of the generic Ariane 5 launcher.
Those improvements relate mainly to the structure of the Ariane 5, allowing for an increased thrust and ability 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.
This mission was designated Flight VA238 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system. While it was the fourth mission of the year, it was also the seventh launch of the year for Arianespace. This is because Arianespace now enjoys a full family of launch vehicles.
With the introduction of Soyuz at the Spaceport in 2011, Arianespace’s family was joined by the lightweight Vega vehicle, following her successful debut in 2012.
The future fleet of Ariane 6 and Vega C launch systems may also involve a level of reusability in the future.
Reusability is currently proving to be highly successful for Arianespace rival SpaceX. However, this latest mission involves a satellite that switched sides.
Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN – a two-payload “condosat” produced by Thales Alenia Space for Hellas Sat and Inmarsat – was set to ride on a Falcon Heavy. However, it was switched to riding on an Ariane 5 after Inmarsat noted it was struggling against regulatory issues in Europe.
A deadline was looming for this satellite to be launched and made operational in space, and based on the delays in the Falcon Heavy launch schedule, a rocket that isn’t set to debut until the end of 2017, the London-based company had to act. After apparently considering a Proton-M launch, the Ariane 5 was selected for the task.
The satellite in question has a Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000C4 platform, and a liftoff mass of 5,780 kg.
Once in orbit, the Hellas Sat 3 component will deliver direct-to-home and telecom services to maintain and expand Hellas Sat’s business reach; while the Inmarsat S EAN component provides the satellite portion of Inmarsat’s new European Aviation Network.
It will use a multi-beam mission in S-band and Ka-band for Inmarsat as well as a powerful Ku/Ka-Band mission of 44 Ku and 1 Ka transponders for Hellas-Sat.
The spacecraft has been positioned as the upper passenger on Ariane 5 and will be released first during the flight.
GSAT-17 was manufactured by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to expand this national space agency’s current fleet of 17 telecommunications satellites.
It will provide continuity of Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) in Normal C and Upper Extended C bands, as well as Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) in S-band and Data Relay and Search & Rescue services in UHF band.
The GSAT-17 spacecraft was built by ISRO/ISAC (the ISRO Satellite Centre), utilizing the Standard I-3K satellite bus. Its liftoff mass is set at 3,477 kg.
The total payload carried on Flight VA238 was approximately 10,177 kg., with the mission lasting 39 minutes from liftoff to deployment of the two spacecraft passengers.
Arianespace is targeting a total of 12 missions in 2017 utilizing its family of the heavy-lift Ariane 5, medium-lift Soyuz and light-lift Vega.
So far this year, the launch services company has performed six flights from the Spaceport, composed of three with Ariane 5, two utilizing Soyuz and one with Vega.
(Images via Arianespace).