Ariane 5 Rocket Launches 2 New Satellites After Multiple Delays

Ariane 5 Rocket Launches 2 New Satellites After Multiple Delays
Arianespace's heavyweight Ariane 5 flight with the Arabsat-5A and COMS satellites lifts off at sunset from the Spaceport in French Guiana on June 27, 2010. Full Story. (Image credit: Arianespace.)

Europe's Ariane 5 commercial launcher carriedout another uneventful trek to orbit Saturday night, successfully deploying apowerful broadcasting bird for the Arab world and a unique spacecraft to seeand communicate with South Korea.

The rocket roared away from a jungle launchbase on the northeastern coast of South America at 2141 GMT (5:41 p.m. EDT)atop the thrust produced by its hydrogen-fueled main engine and twin solidboosters.

Tracking eastward across the Atlantic Oceanand then Africa during the half-hour flight, the cryogenic upper stagedelivered the required push to reach ageosynchronous transfer orbit with Arabsat 5A and COMS, the Communication,Ocean and Meteorological Satellite.

Technical troubles had delayed the liftofftwice this week, including two last-second aborts during Thursday's countdowndue to pressurization readings from the vehicle's main stage.

"This launch was performed with a delayand after several attempts. Nevertheless, it's a perfect launch," saidJean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace. "It shows clearly thatour quality policy is exactly what you expect from us."

"Better being late than never, but we'reglad we made it," said Khalid Balkheyour, Arabsat president and CEO.

"We've been waiting for this launch forquite some time. Space technology is complex, we have to be careful with whatwe are doing. And I'd really like to thank Ariane, led by Mr. Le Gall, and allhis team."

The Ariane achieved a highly elliptical orbitstretching 22,352 miles at its farthest point from Earth and 155 miles at thenearest. The satellites will use their onboard engines to circularize the orbitand reach geostationary slots in the coming weeks. [Stunning Ariane 5 sunset launchphoto.]

Riding in the upper position of the rocket'sdual payload stack was Arabsat 5A, the second new spacecraft launched just thismonth for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization.

Arabsat 5A and the Badr 5 direct-to-hometelevision satellite, which flew aboard a Russian Proton rocket on June 3, arethe first members for the organization's fifth generation of satellites. Theoriginal generation a quarter-century ago included one craft launched aboardspace shuttle Discovery in 1985.

The Arabsat group, based in Riyadh, SaudiArabia, operates a cluster of orbiting satellites to reach millions of homes inover 100 countries across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia, relayinghundreds of television channels and radio stations.

This latest craft sent aloft Saturday will beparked alongside the aging Arabsat 2A in geostationary orbit at 30.5 degreesEast longitude some 22,300 miles above the equator.

Built jointly by Astrium and Thales AleniaSpace, Arabsat 5A is a Eurostar E3000-style satellite with a 15-year designlife and weighing nearly 10,900 pounds at liftoff.

It is equipped with with 26 C-band and 24Ku-band transponders for business services and television signal routing acrossthe Arab world.

"Arabsat 5A multi-mission satellite willprovide additional capacity at 30.5 degrees East for a large range of satellitecommunications services such as television backhauling and broadcasting,telephony, business communications, Internet trunking and the provision of VSATand other interactive services, over the whole continent of Africa, CentralAsia and Middle East region," Balkheyour said.

Sharing the ride to orbit aboard the Ariane 5rocket Saturday was COMS, a satellitefor South Korea to perform three very diverse roles from geostationaryorbit at 128.3 degrees East.

It features an experimental Ka-bandcommunications package, a weather observation system and equipment to studyocean color and the marine ecosystem to aid the fishing industry.

"One of the main utilizations of thissatellite is monitoring of the Earth's environment from geostationaryorbit," said Herve Lambert, COMS project manager at Astrium.

"For meteorology, the imager allowsobserving of fast, evolving situations such as the Yellow Sands in springtimein Korea and other phenomena such as typhoons.

"Observation of the ocean color fromthis orbit also allows the monitoring of very short-term phenomena such as tideeffects, which has never been done from any other similar satellite."

Astrium built the spacecraft for the KoreaAerospace Research Institute. The 5,400-pound bird, based on the Eurostar E3000model, has a 10-year mission.

The craft will improve life on Earth, saidYoung Shik Kim, South Korea's assistant minister for education, science andtechnology.

"I am sure our successful launch tonightwill help promote the development of space science as we go forward," headded.

Saturday's launch represented the 195thflight for the Ariane rocket family, the 51st for the Ariane 5 vehicle and thesecond of six-or-seven expected this year.

Next up is the planned August 3 launchcarrying the African Rascom-QAF 1R and Nilesat 201 telecommunicationssatellites. That will be followed by Flight 197 in early September withEutelsat's W3B and the Japanese BSAT 3b spacecraft.

"Since the creation of our company 30years ago, we have successfully launched 281 satellites," Le Gall said."And this will continue, as our order book today has 34 satellites forlaunch to geostationary orbit, along with six Ariane 5 missions with theAutomated Transfer Vehicle, and 17 launches to be performed by Soyuz.

"And since the beginning of 2010, wealready have signed nine new contracts - the latest of which is with the Argentineanoperator Arsat, which I am announcing tonight as a new contract."

Copyright 2010,all rights reserved.

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Spaceflight Now Editor

Justin Ray is the former editor of the space launch and news site Spaceflight Now, where he covered a wide range of missions by NASA, the U.S. military and space agencies around the world. Justin was space reporter for Florida Today and served as a public affairs intern with Space Launch Delta 45 at what is now the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station before joining the Spaceflight Now team. In 2017, Justin joined the United Launch Alliance team, a commercial launch service provider.