Ariane 5 underscored its mission capability and operational maturity with tonight’s successful dual-passenger mission, which placed the Skynet 5A and INSAT 4B satellites into geostationary transfer orbit.
Lifting off from the Spaceport in French Guiana, the Ariane 5 deployed Skynet 5A at 26 minutes into the mission, followed four minutes later by INSAT 4B.
“With this first launch of the year 2007, Arianespace has once again demonstrated its leadership,” said CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall. “The satisfaction of every customer is our keyword, offering the best possible Service & Solutions to each one.”
The on-target flight was another Ariane 5 heavy-lift mission carrying two passengers: a unique capability among launch vehicles in the commercial marketplace. Skynet 5A weighed in at approximately 4,700 kg. at liftoff, while INSAT 4B had a launch mass of about 3,000 kg.
Skynet 5A is the first in a series of next-generation secure military relay satellites that will serve British armed forces, NATO and allied countries, and it is the fifth launched for the U.K. Ministry of Defence by Arianespace. The EADS Astrium-built Skynet 5A is to be operated by Paradigm Secure Communications, a commercial organization.
Le Gall noted that Ariane vehicles have orbited a total of 26 military payloads to date, ensuring European autonomy in telecommunications, Earth observation/reconnaissance, navigation and intelligence. Two additional Skynet 5-series satellites are part of Arianespace’s backlog for future launches.
INSAT 4B was the 13th satellite launched by Ariane for the Indian Space Research Organisation in a cooperation that dates back to 1981. The INSAT 4B will be dedicated to television and telecommunications services, carrying 12 Ku-band transponders and 12 C-band transponders for coverage primarily over the Indian sub-continent.
Tonight’s mission is the first of six Ariane 5 flights planned in 2007 by Arianespace. The company is building up to a stabilized rate of eight Ariane 5 missions annually by 2009. “As you know, we have â€“ together with our industrial partners â€“ been working very hard to increase our launch regularity and our launch rate, with the target of reaching the Ariane 5 launches per year in 2009. Tonight’s launch shows that we are on the right track,” Le Gall said
Le Gall also announced Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 launch from Europe’s Spaceport: a dual-payload flight in early May with Astra 1L for SES Astra and Galaxy 17 for Intelsat.
In addition, Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate has scheduled a May launch that will use a Soyuz vehicle to carry a cluster of four Globalstar constellation satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
(Arianespace press release)