A European rocket bounced back from a minor January anomaly with a picture-perfect launch of two commercial communications satellites today (April 5).
An Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana today at 5:34 p.m. EDT (2134 GMT), successfully delivering the DSN-1/Superbird-8 and HYLAS 4 satellites to geostationary transfer orbit high above Earth.
The targeted transfer orbit brings the satellites as close as 155 miles (250 kilometers) to Earth and takes them as far away as 22,236 miles (35,786 km), according to representatives of Arianespace, the France-based company that operates and markets the Ariane 5. The two satellites will use their own onboard thrusters to settle into their final operational orbits.
Today's flight was the first for an Ariane 5 since Jan. 25, when one of the workhorse rockets carried two communications satellites to the wrong orbit because its onboard computer had been programmed with faulty navigation data. The mistake wasn't fatal for the affected satellites; they'll be able to get to their final orbits but will have to use more fuel than originally expected to do so, the spacecraft's operators have said.
DSN-1/Superbird-8 and HYLAS 4 will be operated by Japanese company Sky Perfect JSAT and Britain-based Avanti Communications, respectively. Each satellite has a design life of 15 years.
"Superbird-8 will carry high-performance Ku and Ka transponders and will provide satellite communications services mainly in the Japanese market," Arianespace representatives wrote in a mission press kit.
"HYLAS 4 will deliver high-speed, reliable and secure satellite communications to internet service providers (ISPs), mobile network operators (MNOs), governments and satellite operators across Europe, through its Ka-band capacity," the representatives added.
Today's launch was the 242nd overall liftoff for an Ariane rocket, Arianespace representatives said.