Arianespace Rocket Launches India's Largest Satellite. South Korean Weather Satellite, Too.

WASHINGTON — Arianespace completed its final Ariane 5 launch of 2018 and penultimate overall mission for the year on Dec. 4, carrying a satellite for India and another for South Korea to geostationary transfer orbit.

The Ariane 5 lifted off from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana along the South American coast at 3:37 p.m. Eastern. The Indian Space Research Organisation’s GSAT-11 telecom satellite detached from the rocket's upper stage 29 minutes later, followed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s GEO-Kompsat-2A weather satellite another four and a half minutes later.

The mission was Arianespace of Evry, France's sixth Ariane 5 mission of the year and 10th cumulative launch for 2018.

An Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket carrying the Indian GSAT-11 communications satellite and South Korean Kompsat-2A weather satellite on Dec. 4, 2018 from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. (Image credit: Arianespace)

ISRO's GSAT-11 satellite was originally scheduled to launch in May, but the Indian space agency called off the mission to inspect the satellite — the largest ever built in India — for mistakes. As a result, GSAT-11's original co-passenger, the Intelsat-38/Azerspace-2 condo-sat, was forced to reschedule for another Ariane 5 mission that took place Sept. 25.

Intelsat of Luxembourg and Tysons Corner, Virginia, paired the condo-sat with another of its satellites, the Horizons-3e joint venture satellite it co-owns with Sky Perfect JSAT of Japan, to right its own launch plans.

ISRO Chairman K Sivan, in a speech following the launch, acknowledged the difficulty caused by the missed May launch and expressed gratitude for Arianespace’s ability to still launch GSAT-11 this year.

"I must specifically thank Arianespace for this great grace you have given to us," he said.

ISRO has its own launch vehicles, but has consistently relied on Arianespace to orbit satellites too heavy for the agency’s own launchers.

GSAT-11 is a 5,850-kilogram telecom satellite designed to cover the Indian mainland and nearby islands with 32 Ku-band user spot beams. The satellite has 16 gigabits per second of total throughput — a smaller amount than most high-throughput satellites (Thaicom’s IPstar, launched in 2005, has 45 Gbps of capacity).

GSAT-11 also has eight spot beams in Ka-band to connect with ground segment hubs. The satellite has a design life of 15 years.

KARI's GEO-Kompsat-2A is the first in a pair of civilian geostationary weather satellites.

Sang Ryool Lee, KARI vice president, said the 3,500-kilogram satellite took more than seven years to develop.

"The launch today marked the successful end of GEO-Kompsat-2A development and also the hopeful start of better Korea weather service,"he said.

GEO-Kompsat-2A has a design life of 10 years. Stéphane Israël, Arianespace CEO, said the second satellite, GEO-Kompsat-2B, is scheduled to launch in one year, also on an Ariane 5.

Israël said Arianespace's final launch of the year will be a Soyuz mission in the coming weeks of CSO-1, a reconnaissance satellite for the French military.

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

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Senior Analyst, Quilty Analytics

Caleb Henry is a senior analyst for Quilty Analytics and a former staff writer for the space industry publication SpaceNews. From 2016 to 2020, Caleb covered the global satellite industry for SpaceNews, chronicling everything from launches, spacecraft manufacturing and ground infrastructure. Caleb's work has also appeared in NewSpace Global and Access Intelligence. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science with a minor in astronomy from Grove City College.