Two communications satellites built in America for Asian and Australian operators, paired together to share a ride into orbit, successfully got there aboard an Ariane 5 rocket Friday night.
Running just like clockwork, the countdown hit zero precisely on time at 2209 GMT (6:09 p.m. EDT) and the powerful launcher roared away from its jungle launch base in South America at nightfall.
The European-made rocket reached the targeted geosynchronous transfer orbit a half-hour later to deploy JCSAT 12, a telecommunications satellite for Japan, followed a few minutes later by the release of Optus D3, a broadcasting spacecraft for Australia.
"I'm particularly happy to share this new success with you. It is our 32nd success in a row for Ariane 5," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace.
"Our working relationship with the Asia-Pacific region is under the limelight tonight, and this further success illustrates that our services and solutions offering is recognized across the world."
The Ariane achieved a highly elliptical orbit stretching 22,377 miles at its farthest point from Earth and 155 miles at the nearest. The satellites will use their onboard engines to circularize the orbit and reach geostationary slots, with JCSAT 12 planning five burns and Optus D3 needing four maneuvers over the next several days.
Lockheed Martin built the high-power JCSAT 12 spacecraft in Pennsylvania using the company's A2100 model offering. The 8,900-pound satellite is equipped with 30 active Ku-band and a dozen C-band transponders for communications services to Japan, the Asia-Pacific region and Hawaii over the next 15 years.
"I'm so relieved today, and I want to share my joy and satisfaction with all of you here," Hideaki Kido, executive officer and group president, SKY Perfect JSAT Corp., told VIPs gathered in the launch center Friday night.
SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. of Tokyo plans to rename the satellite JCSAT R-A once it's operational in a couple of months. It will become a new in-space backup spacecraft for the operator's orbital fleet. The current spare JCSAT is nearing the end of its design life following a 1997 launch aboard an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral.
Optus D3, as its name suggests, is the third in the current generation of communications satellites built in Virginia by Orbital Sciences for the Australian operator. This latest craft will enable a broadening of services provided from space.
"We're very excited and reassured with the launch of the D3 satellite this evening," said Paul Sheridan, director of Optus Satellite.
"Australia is a vast continent where delivery of services via satellite makes sense. D3 reflects our continued investment and commitment to delivering services via satellite. We look forward to continuing the delivery of satellite services to our customers."
Constructed around Orbital's Star 2 design with a 15-year life expectancy, the 5,400-pound craft has Ku-band transponders for relaying communications and direct-to-home television across Australia and New Zealand. It will be positioned at 156 degrees East longitude.
Friday's launch of the workhorse Ariane 5 was the rocket's fourth of seven planned missions in 2009. The year's fifth rocket has been stacked atop a mobile launching platform in preparation to receive its cargo and the sixth vehicle has arrived at the launch site from Europe to begin assembly for its flight.
Next up will be Arianespace Flight 191 in late September carrying Amazonas 2 and GMS, two communications satellites for Spain and Germany.
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