Ariane 5 rocket launches communications satellites for India, Eutelsat into orbit

Arianespace flew a pair of communications satellites safely into space Thursday (Jan. 16) during its first launch of 2020.

The French company's Ariane 5 rocket spewed orange flames as it lifted off into a cloudy sky from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:05 p.m. local time (4:05 p.m. EST or 2105 GMT). 

On board the workhorse rocket were two satellites: Eutelsat Konnect for the European satellite operator Eutelsat, and GSAT-30 for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Both satellites were deployed to geosynchronous orbit at approximately 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth's surface about half an hour after liftoff.

Video: Ariane 5 rocket launches Eutelsat and Indian satellites
In photos: Ariane 5 rocket lofts 2 satellites into orbit for Eutelsat, India

An Ariane 5 rocket lifts off from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana, carrying the Eutelsat Konnect and GSAT-30 communications satellites into orbit. (Image credit: Arianespace)

By this fall, Eutelsat's satellite is expected to offer broadband data and internet services at speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for 40 countries in Africa and 15 countries in Europe. (It will be operational before that, but it will offer lower speeds of 75 Mbps in the meantime.)

"In Africa, Eutelsat Konnect also will, through the establishment of public Wi-Fi terminals, share Internet access between several users, marketed in the form of coupons that can be paid via mobile phone," Arianespace said in a statement. Eutelsat Konnect will join Eutelsat's fleet of nearly 40 telecommunications satellites that provide television, radio and internet services to customers around the world.

The upper composite of the Ariane 5 rocket — composed of Eutelsat Konnect, the SYLDA payload dispenser system and a protective payload fairing — is lowered over GSAT-30 in preparation for launch. (Image credit: Arianespace)

GSAT-30 will also provide various services, particularly for the Indian subcontinent. It is expected to provide applications such as Earth observations, telecommunications, educational broadcasts and navigation.

"By operating GSAT-30, ISRO will — once again — foster the use of space to help bridge the digital divide in the Indian subcontinent as part of its ambitious space program," Arianespace representatives said in the statement.

The satellite will be placed in a geostationary orbit, hovering above the same part of the globe at a longitude of 83 degrees East. It will be replacing the INSAT-4A satellite, which launched in 2005, and it is designed to be operational for at least 15 years.

Today's mission is the 107th successful Ariane 5 launch, coming as Arianespace celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020. Arianespace's last launch of 2019 lofted the European Space Agency's Characterising Exoplanets Satellite, tasked with searching for alien worlds, along with four other satellites. It lifted off safely on Dec. 18 after a Soyuz rocket glitch delayed the first attempt.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, 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 a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: