Update for Nov. 25: Arianespace has postponed the Ariane 5 launch by another 24 hours due to unfavorable weather conditions at the launch site. This is the most recent delay after an issue with the ground system at the launch site caused led Arianespace to scrub the launch on Friday (Nov. 22). The next launch attempt will be on Tuesday (Nov. 26) at 4:09 p.m. EST (2109 GMT).
An Ariane 5 rocket will launch two new communications satellites from French Guiana today (Nov. 22), and you can watch it live online.
The European launch provider Arianespace will use its workhorse Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket to launch the Tiba-1 satellite for the government of Egypt and the GX5 satellite for the British telecommunications company Inmarsat.
It will lift off from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana during a 95-minute launch window that opens at 4:08 p.m. EST (6:08 p.m. local time; 2108 GMT). The two satellites will deploy into Earth's orbit about 34 minutes after liftoff. You can watch the launch live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of Arianespace, or directly via Arianespace's YouTube channel.
Tiba-1 will be the Egyptian government's first communications satellite, and it will provide Ka-band phone and internet services to "every inch" of Egypt, and its coverage area includes some neighboring Arab and African countries that could purchase its satellite services in the future, according to a report from Reuters.
While this is Egypt's first government-owned communications satellite, it is not the first satellite to provide communications services over Egypt. Private companies in Egypt have launched other communications and remote-sensing satellites, as well as some small cubesats.
The Tiba-1 satellite has a designed lifetime of at least 15 years. It was developed by the French-Italian aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, while Airbus Defence and Space supplied the platform and handled the spacecraft's assembly and testing.
The second payload launching on the Ariane 5 today is Inmarsat's GX5 mobile communications satellite, which will provide telecommunications services for Europe and the Middle East as well as Wi-Fi for airline passengers and commercial maritime services. Equipped with 72 Ka-band fixed spot beams and four additional steerable beams, the satellite can "direct additional capacity where it is needed," Arianespace officials said in a statement.
"Inmarsat's fifth Ka-band Global Xpress (GX) satellite, GX5 will be the most advanced in the GX fleet, which in less than four years has become the gold standard for seamless, globally available, mobile broadband services," Arianespace officials said, adding that the GX5 will be able to deliver services at a greater capacity than its four predecessors (GX1–GX4) combined.
A landmark mission for Arianespace
Today's mission, titled VA250, will be the 250th launch of Europe's Ariane family of rockets. The first Ariane 1 rocket launched on Dec. 24, 1979, and the first successful Ariane 5 launched on Oct. 21, 1998 (following a failure and a partial launch failure in 1996 and 1997, respectively). The first successful launch of the Ariane 5 ECA variant was on Feb. 12, 2005, following a launch failure with the first attempt in 2002.
To date, the Ariane 5 ECA rocket has launched 70 successful missions. There has been only one partial failure of an Ariane 5 ECA rocket since its first flight; Arianespace mission controllers lost contact with the rocket's upper stage during the Jan. 25, 2018 launch of NASA's Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission, shortly after the rocket's trajectory veered off course. This led to speculation of a launch failure, but the GOLD satellite and two other payloads on board still successfully made it to orbit.
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