European Rocket Launches 2 Satellites in 50th Successful Blastoff

Ariane 5 Launch
An Ariane 5 rocket launches toward space on Aug. 2, 2012, carrying two communications satellites into orbit from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. It was the 50th consecutive launch success for the Ariane 5. (Image credit: Ariane Space)

IBIZA, Spain — Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket on Aug. 2 successfully placed two telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit, both to provide capacity over Africa, in the fourth of seven Ariane 5 launches planned for 2012 and the vehicle’s 50th consecutive success.

The Intelsat 20 satellite, owned by Intelsat of Luxembourg and Washington, carries 60 Ku- and 24 C-band transponders along with one Ka-band transponder. It was reported healthy in orbit after launch and is intended to operate in geostationary orbit at 68.5 degrees east longitude to serve Indian and African television broadcasters.

Hylas 2, owned by Avanti Communications of London, carries 24 Ka-band transponders and is designed to provide broadband links to African customers. Hylas 2 is likely to be operated at 31 degrees east, but its final location remains unclear given the regulatory uncertainty over Avanti’s rights to Ka-band frequencies at that orbital slot.

Operating from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, on South America’s northeast coast, the Ariane 5 rocket set a record for the mass of the hardware it placed into geostationary orbit, at 10,182 kilograms, Arianespace said in a postlaunch statement.

Removing the payload adaptors and separation hardware from that total, Arianespace launched two satellites weighing a combined 9,405 kilograms into orbit.

Arianespace, its industrial shareholders and government backers in Europe are debating whether to complete an already-started program to boost Ariane 5’s performance to geostationary transfer orbit by 20 percent to launch heavier pairs of satellites. A decision is expected in November.

Intelsat 20, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., weighed 6,094 kilograms at launch.

Hylas 2 was built by Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va., and weighed 3,311 kilograms at launch.

Evry, France-based Arianespace said its next Ariane 5 launch, set for Sept. 21, will carry the Astra 2F Ku- and Ka-band telecommunications satellite for SES of Luxembourg; and India’s GSAT-10 telecommunications satellite for the Indian Space Research Organisation.

This story was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Charles Q. Choi
Contributing Writer

Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for and Live Science. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica. Visit him at