First Japan-built Commercial Satellite Launched by Ariane 5

PONTEVEDRA, Fla. — Europe's Ariane 5 ECA rocket successfully launched Japanese andU.S. telecommunications satellites Aug. 14 in the fifth of a planned sevenlaunches in 2008, and was the vehicle's 27th consecutive success.

The launchfeatured the first Japanese-builtcommercial satellite. Builder Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (Melco) said now it isready to compete with the dominant U.S. and European manufacturers forcommercial satellite contracts.

TheMelco-built Superbird-7 satellite will be operated by Space CommunicationsCorp. (SCC) of Tokyo at 144 degrees east longitude. SCC in March was purchasedby SkyPerfect JSAT Corp. and as of October will be a division of that company.

Superbird-7,which will replace the Superbird-C satellite now at that orbital slot, is basedon Melco's DS 2000 satellite frame. It weighed 4,820 kilograms at launch and isdesigned to deliver 8 kilowatts of power to the satellite's payload at the endof its 15-year operating life. The satellite carries 28 Ku-band transpondersand will be used by SkyPerfect JSAT Corp. for television and telecommunicationsbroadcasts, mainly in Japan.

SCC ChiefExecutive Yukata Nagai, referring to the fact that Superbird 7 is the firstmade-in-Japan commercial spacecraft ordered by a Japanese fleet operator, saidafter the launch: "I hope such satellites will be more widely accepted inthe world satellite market based on this success."

MelcoSenior Executive Officer Noboru Kurihara, who also attended the launch atEurope's GuianaSpace Center in French Guiana, said: "Today's flight represents anevent of historical significance for Mitsubishi Electric and, we hope, for thecommercial satellite industry: the first Japan-made commercialtelecommunications satellite. Now we have come up with our own standardsatellite platform, the DS 2000. With the launch of Superbird-7, we will workto establish a firm position in the market as a competitive and reliableJapan-based commercial satellite manufacturer."

Ridingalongside Superbird-7 was the AMC-21 satellite to be operated by SES Americom,the U.S. division of SES of Luxembourg, at 125 degrees west longitude. Thefirst major customer for the satellite will be the U.S. Public BroadcastingCorp. AMC-21 was built by Thales Alenia Space of Cannes, France, which provided the electronics payload; and by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., which built the satellite's Star-2 platform and also performed satellite integrationand testing.

AMC-21weighed 2,410 kilograms at launch and carries 24 Ku-band transponders. It isdesigned to operate for 15 years. SESAmericom Chief Executive Rob Bednarek said AMC-21 also will be used toprovide mobile broadband communications to the maritime industry. Bednarek saidthe Thales Alenia Space-Orbital Sciences team, along with the Arianespacelaunch consortium of Evry, France, delivered the satellite into orbit just 27months after the construction contract was signed.

ArianespaceChief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said the next Ariane 5 launch is scheduledfor October and will carry the Hot Bird 9 direct-broadcast television satellitefor satellite-fleet operator Eutelsat of Paris, and the NSS-9 satellite for SESNew Skies. Also on board will be the two small Spirale missile-warningdemonstration satellites for the French arms procurement agency, DGA.?

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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