Ariane 5 Rocket Launches British and Brazilian Satellites

The Ariane 5 rocketlaunched on another flawless mission Wednesday evening with a Britishspace-based military communications relay station and a multi-purposecommunications satellite for Brazil.

The workhorse rocket leaptaway from its launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana, at 2206 GMT (5:06p.m. EST). The Ariane 5, making its fifth flight of the year, set off on aneasterly course from the launch site moments after liftoff.

The rocket's twin solidrocket boosters, first stage and cryogenic upper stage all performed wellduring the launch. The second stage released the two satellite payloads about ahalf-hour into the flight.

The Ariane 5 hit its marksduring the voyage to space, arriving in an elliptical geostationary transferorbit with a low point of 155 miles, a high point of 22,340 miles, and aninclination of six degrees. All of the orbital parameters were withinpre-flight targets.

The British military'sSkynet 5B communications satellite was deployed first, followed about sixminutes later by the separation of Star One C1, a Brazilian broadcastingspacecraft.

Arianespace hailed thelaunch as a complete success, marking the Ariane 5 rocket's 21st consecutivesuccessful flight dating back to 2002.

The mission set a new liftrecord to geostationary transfer orbit with a total mass of more than 21,000pounds, including both paying passengers and a dual-payload adapter. The numbersurpassed a mark set by another Ariane 5 launch in May.

"Since the beginningof 2007, 12 large commercial communications have been launched [worldwide], andwe launched 10 of them - 83 percent of the total, which is also a record,"said Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace.

Skynet 5B joins a fleet ofspacecraft that relay communications between commanders and troops for Britain's Ministry of Defense.

The 10,218-pound satellitewill circularize its orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles during the next fewweeks. Skynet 5B's permanent home in geostationary orbit will be along theEquator above the northern Indian Ocean.

After a testing campaign,control of the satellite will be handed over to Paradigm Secure Communications,the operator of the Skynet 5 system for the United Kingdom.

Paradigm is wholly owned byEADS Astrium, which is the prime contractor for the construction of both theSkynet 5 satellites and the Ariane 5 rocket.

"It's yet anothersignificant success for Astrium," said Patrick Wood, Skynet programdirector at EADS Astrium. "In fact, you could say another triple successfor Astrium."

The satellite's X-bandpayload will be able to reach users across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, andmuch of Asia. The craft is equipped with super-high-frequency andultra-high-frequency antennas to provide secure voice, video and digitalcommunications between military commanders and troops stationed around theworld.

The antennas are hardenedagainst nuclear attacks and feature anti-jamming capabilities, according toParadigm.

"Skynet 5 breaks themold," said Malcolm Peto, Paradigm's managing director. "It's theone-stop shop for the U.K. military for all their satellite beyondline-of-sight needs."

Skynet 5B is expected toremain in service for up to 15 years. The craft joins another satellitelaunched earlier this year, and a third Skynet 5 satellite is scheduled forlaunch on another Ariane 5 mission in mid-2008.

The Skynet system is partof a European satellite communications coalition formed by the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The countries won a contract in 2004 to deliver securecommunications services from their satellite fleets to NATO member nations.

Paradigm has otheragreements with the governments of the Netherlands, Canada, Portugal, Australia, and Belgium.

The Ariane 5 booster alsohoisted the Brazilian Star One C1 communications satellite during Wednesday'slaunch.

With a liftoff weight of9,039 pounds, the spacecraft will deliver telecommunications and broadbandInternet services across Latin America and the southern United States. Star One C1 will be stationed in geostationary orbit at 65 degrees Westlongitude.

The satellite is beginninga 15-year mission for Star One, a subsidiary of Brazilian operator Embratel.Star One is also partly owned by General Electric International.

Star One C1 is the firstmember of the company's third generation of satellites.

"With this newsatellite, Star One will be able to confirm its leadership as the largestregional satellite operator in Latin America," said Lincoln Oliveira, StarOne's chief technical officer.

Television signals fromEmbratel satellites reach about 16 million homes throughout Brazil, according to the company.

Star One C1 will replaceBrasilsat B2, an aging 12-year-old satellite near the end of its operationallife span. The replacement satellite is twice as powerful as its oldercounterpart, according to Embratel.

"The new generation ofsatellites has more power, more coverage, and will enable the expansion ofservices to other companies and to the people as well," said GustavoSilbert, president of Star One.

Built by Thales AleniaSpace, Star One C1 carries 28 C-band and 16 Ku-band transponders for voice,data and direct-to-home broadcasting services. A lone X-band transponder on thesatellite will be restricted to military use.

The launch of another StarOne satellite is slated for February to further augment the company's fleet,according to Embratel.

Two more missions are onthe books for Arianespace to round out the year. A Soyuz rocket launched from Kazakhstan will carry Canada's Radarsat 2 spacecraft into orbit on Dec. 14, followed a few dayslater by another Ariane 5 mission with the Rascom 1 and Horizons 2 satellites.

Copyright2007, all rights reserved.

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Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at and on Twitter.