Ariane 5 rocket launches satellites for Japan, South Korea into orbit

Arianespace's third flight of 2020 saw a rocket boost a Japanese telecommunications satellite and a Korean oceanography satellite into orbit from the Guiana Space Center (opens in new tab).

The Ariane 5 rocket (opens in new tab) lifted off flawlessly into a dark sky from Kourou, French Guiana at 5:18 p.m. EST (2218 GMT or 7:18 p.m. local time). The launch continued Arianespace's relationships with entities in Japan and Korea that regularly launch satellites for civilian purposes.

"I am thrilled to announce that JCSAT-17 and GEO-Kompsat 2B have been injected as planned into their targeted orbit," Luce Fabreguettes, Arianespace's executive vice president of missions, operations and purchasing, said in a post-launch news conference, adding that the rocket performed "flawlessly." 

Video: Ariane 5 rocket launches satellites for Japan and South Korea (opens in new tab)
Arianespace rocket launches South Korean weather satellite (opens in new tab) 

The first of the satellites is called JCSAT-17 (opens in new tab), for the Japanese operator SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation. This satellite will be placed into geostationary orbit to provide high-bandwidth video, broadband and cellular communications services to customers in and around Japan. Among the customers served by this satellite will be NTT Docomo, the largest telecommunications company in Japan, Arianespace said in a statement (opens in new tab).

The second satellite is called GEO-Kompsat 2B (opens in new tab), launched on behalf of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). This satellite is part of a Korean national program that is operating geostationary satellites for civilian purposes, Arianespace added. GEO-Kompsat 2B is optimized for Earth environment and ocean monitoring applications. 

Arianespace hefted a predecessor satellite into orbit, called GEO-Kompsat 2A, in December 2018. While its sister satellite was made to monitor space weather (opens in new tab), or the way solar particles from the sun influence magnetic activity around Earth, GEO-Kompsat 2B will focus on Earth's oceans, air quality and other meteorological factors.

Arianespace (opens in new tab), which turns 40 years old in 2020, is a commercial launch provider with a family of different rockets. Ariane 5 is used for heavy-lifting satellites to geostationary transfer orbit, where satellites can then proceed to geostationary orbit, where they constantly linger above the same part of the globe. Arianespace also uses the Soyuz 2 for medium-lift payloads, and Vega for smaller payloads. 

Arianespace is working on successor rockets, called Ariane 6 and Vega C (opens in new tab), which are billed as new "rideshares" to bring satellites into space.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: