Spaceflight Now: Mission Report


September 14, 2000 -- Follow the preparations and launch of the Astra 2B and GE-7 communications satellites aboard the Ariane 506 rocket. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.


Europe's next-generation Ariane 5 rocket sailed through its third successful commercial launching Thursday, lofting a pair of communications satellites during a clockwork flight. Read our full story.

2332 GMT (7:32 p.m. EDT)

Plus+38 minutes. GE-7 SEPARATION! The Ariane 5 rocket has deployed the GE Americom GE-7 communications satellite into Earth orbit, completing Arianespace Flight 130. Today's launch marks the third consecutive successful commercial flight Europe's heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle.

2329 GMT (7:29 p.m. EDT)

Plus+35 minutes. Less than three minutes from GE-7 separation to complete this launch. Altitude is 3,174 km, velocity is 7.6 km/sec.

2326 GMT (7:26 p.m. EDT)

Plus+32 minutes, 40 seconds. Altitude is 2,640 km, velocity is 7.9 km/sec.

2325 GMT (7:25 p.m. EDT)

Plus+31 minutes. The Sylda 5 payload shroud that encapsulated the GE-7 satellite below Astra 2B has been jettisoned. The GE-7 craft is now free for release from the Ariane 5 upper stage at about Plus+37 minutes, 39 seconds.

2324 GMT (7:24 p.m. EDT)

Plus+30 minutes. The Ariane 5 rocket continues its cruise above the Earth with the GE-7 spacecraft still aboard. Separation is less than eight minutes away. Altitude is currently 2,069 km, velocity is 8.2 km/sec.

2323 GMT (7:23 p.m. EDT)

Plus+29 minutes. ASTRA 2B SEPARATION! Arianespace reports the European Astra 2B direct-to-home TV broadcasting satellite has been released into space from the Ariane 5 rocket.

2321 GMT (7:21 p.m. EDT)

Plus+27 minutes, 30 seconds. Confirmation that the upper stage has shutdown has planned to complete powered flight for the launch. The stage will now provide proper pointing and spinup for deployment of the two satellites.

2320 GMT (7:20 p.m. EDT)

Plus+26 minutes, 30 seconds. Standing by for cutoff of the storable upper stage in less than one minute. Altitude is 1,414 km, 8.5 km/sec.

2319 GMT (7:19 p.m. EDT)

Plus+25 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 1,258 km, 8.5 km/sec.

2318 GMT (7:18 p.m. EDT)

Plus+24 minutes. Just over three minutes left in the powered phase of today's launch. Altitude is 1,050 km, 8.4 km/sec.

2317 GMT (7:17 p.m. EDT)

Plus+23 minutes. The Malindi tracking station in Kenya, Africa, has acquired the Ariane 5 rocket's signal. Altitude is 932 km, 8.3 km/sec.

2316 GMT (7:16 p.m. EDT)

Plus+22 minutes. No problems have been reported with the launch. Altitude is 820 km, 8.3 km/sec.

2314 GMT (7:14 p.m. EDT)

Plus+20 minutes, 30 seconds. Less than seven minutes left in the upper stage burn. Altitude is 680 km, velocity is 8.2 km/sec.

2313 GMT (7:13 p.m. EDT)

Plus+19 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 598 km, velocity is 8.1 km/sec.

2311 GMT (7:11 p.m. EDT)

Plus+17 minutes. All systems still reported to be performing as expected. Altitude is 438 km, velocity is 8.0 km/sec.

2309 GMT (7:09 p.m. EDT)

Plus+15 minutes. Altitude is 340 km, velocity is 7.9 km/sec.

2308 GMT (7:08 p.m. EDT)

Plus+14 minutes. The Ascension Island tracking station in the mid-Atlantic Ocean has picked up signals from the Ariane 506 rocket. Altitude is 301 km, velocity is 7.84 km/sec.

2305 GMT (7:05 p.m. EDT)

Plus+11 minutes, 30 seconds. The upper stage is firing for its long-duration, 17-minute burn. All systems reported normal. Altitude is 219 km, velocity is 7.6 km/sec.

2304 GMT (7:04 p.m. EDT)

Plus+10 minutes, 25 seconds. The main cryogenic stage's Vulcain engine has cut off and the stage has separated. It will fall toward the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The upper stage, the storable propellant stage, has ignited to deliver the Astra 2B and GE-7 satellites into orbit.

Also, the tracking stations at the launch site have lost contact with the Ariane 5 has it heads downrange.

2303 GMT (7:03 p.m. EDT)

Plus+9 minutes, 30 seconds. Less than 30 seconds left in the rocket's main cryogenic stage burn. Altitude is 166, velocity 6.78 km/sec as the rocket begins gaining altitude again.

2302 GMT (7:02 p.m. EDT)

Plus+8 minutes, 30 seconds. The Natal tracking station has acquired signal from the Ariane 5 rocket.

2302 GMT (7:02 p.m. EDT)

Plus+8 minutes. Now in the period of flight were the rocket levels out in altitude in order to gain speed. Altitude is 160 km, velocity is 5.2 km/sec.

2300 GMT (7:00 p.m. EDT)

Plus+6 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 160 km, velocity is 3.7 km/sec.

2258 GMT (6:58 p.m. EDT)

Plus+4 minutes, 30 seconds. Trajectory still reported normal. The Ariane 5 rocket's cryogenic main stage and its Vulcain engine contiues to fire. Altitude is 137 km, velocity is 2.6 km/sec.

2257 GMT (6:57 p.m. EDT)

Plus+3 minutes, 30 seconds. The protective payload fairing has been separated from the Ariane 5. Vehicle continues the climb to orbit on the power of the main stage engine. Altitude is 112 km, velocity is 2.3 km/sec.

2256 GMT (6:56 p.m. EDT)

Plus+2 minutes, 30 seconds. The solid rocket boosters have been jettisoned from the Ariane 5 rocket's core stage. Altitude is 70 km, velocity is 2.0 km/sec.

2256 GMT (6:56 p.m. EDT)

Plus+2 minutes. Altitude is 33.2 km, velocity is 1.85 km/sec.

2255 GMT (6:55 p.m. EDT)

Plus+90 seconds. Trajectory is normal. Burnout of the twin solid rocket boosters is a minute away. Altitude is 24 km.

2255 GMT (6:55 p.m. EDT)

Plus+1 minute. All vehicle systems reported normal as the Ariane 5 streaks into the nighttime sky in South America.

2254 GMT (6:54 p.m. EDT)

Plus+30 seconds. Rocket has completed its pitch and rolls maneuvers.

2254 GMT (6:54 p.m. EDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of Ariane 5 rocket on a dual satellite delivery mission for Europe and America.

2253 GMT (6:53 p.m. EDT)

Minus-40 seconds. Vehicle now on internal power.

2253 GMT (6:53 p.m. EDT)

Minus-1 minute. A fast-paced series of events leading to launch will begin at Minus 37 seconds when the automated ignition sequence is started. The water suppression system at the launch pad will start at Minus 30 seconds. At Minus 22 seconds, overall control will be given to the onboard computer. The Vulcain main engine will be readied for ignition with hydrogen chilldown starting at Minus 18 seconds. The residual hydrogen burn flares will fire beneath the Vulcain engine at Minus 7 seconds to burn away any free hydrogen gas. At Minus 3 seconds, onboard systems take over and the two inertial guidance systems go to flight mode. Vulcain main engine ignition occurs at Minus 0 seconds with checkout between Plus+4 and 7 seconds. If there are no problems found, the solid rocket boosters are ignited at Plus+7.3 seconds.

2252 GMT (6:52 p.m. EDT)

Minus-2 minutes. Today's launch will be the 132nd for an Ariane rocket, the 7th of 2000 and the sixth of Ariane 5.

2251 GMT (6:51 p.m. EDT)

Minus-3 minutes. The scheduled launch time has been loaded into the rocket's main computer system. Main stage tank pressures now at flight level.

2250 GMT (6:50 p.m. EDT)

Minus-4 minutes. Pressurization now underway for the main cryogenic stage's liquid oxygen and hydrogen tanks. Also, final pyrotechnic arming has started. Liftoff remains planned for 2254 GMT (6:54 p.m. EDT).

2249 GMT (6:49 p.m. EDT)

Minus-5 minutes and counting. The final readiness check of the weather just occurred and all launch rules are go tonight.

2247 GMT (6:47 p.m. EDT)

Minus-7 minutes and counting. Synchronized Sequence start. Computers are now in control of this final segment of the launch countdown to prepare the rocket and ground systems for liftoff. There are two computers, one aboard the Ariane 5 and a redundant one at the ELA-3 launch complex, running the countdown.

2243 GMT (6:43 p.m. EDT)

Minus-11 minutes and counting. All systems remain "go" for launch and the status board in the control center is completely green. At the ELA-3 launch zone, the Ariane 506 rocket is poised for liftoff with powerful flood lights illuminating the mighty launcher.

2239 GMT (6:39 p.m. EDT)

Minus-15 minutes and counting. The Ariane 5 rocket stands fully fueled and ready for liftoff at 2254 GMT (6:54 p.m. EDT). Super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen will be pumped into the rocket's main stage through the final minutes of the countdown to replace the cryogenics that naturally boil off.

2235 GMT (6:35 p.m. EDT)

There is nothing to report at this time. The public affairs commentary from Kourou still has not started.

2224 GMT (6:24 p.m. EDT)

Now 30 minutes away from the opening of today's launch window. Still awaiting the first report on countdown status from Arianespace in Kourou.

2135 GMT (5:35 p.m. EDT)

The countdown has entered the final 90 minutes in South America for tonight's launch of a European Ariane 5 rocket carrying a pair of communications satellites. Liftoff remains set to occur at 2254 GMT (6:54 p.m. EDT). There is a 55-minute launch window extending to 2349 GMT (7:49 p.m. EDT). Arianespace Flight 130 will mark the sixth launch of an Ariane 5 rocket.

We will have comprehensive live coverage beginning 30 minutes prior launch.

0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)

Just 8 days after launching an Ariane 4 rocket from the nearby ELA-2 pad, Arianespace is ready for the launch of an Ariane 5 rocket on Flight 130 from the Guiana Space Center later today. The rocket is being designated Ariane 506 for being the 6th launch of the new heavy-lift rocket.

Flight 130 is set for blastoff from ELA-3 in Kourou, French Guiana, at the opening of a 55-minute launch window that extends from 2254 GMT to 2349 GMT (6:54-7:49 p.m. EDT). The mission should place both payloads into a highly elliptical geostationary transfer orbit.

The Ariane 506 will fly a dual-payload mission -- the second for Arianespace in the last month. Riding in the lower position and inside of the Sylda-5 dual-payload carrier, GE-7 will be the last of the two craft to be separated from the Ariane rocket.

GE-7 was built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems and will serve in geostationary orbit at the 137 degrees West slot over the Pacific Ocean for the American communications operator GE Americom. Based on Lockheed Martin's A2100 design, GE-7 will weigh 4,362 pounds at launch and will feature a mass of between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds during most of its planned 15-year long lifetime. Although in a collapsed and cubic configuration at launch, GE-7 will unfurl its 47-foot long solar wings after launch.

Using its 24 C-band transponders, each with 20 watts of power, GE-7 will provide telecommunications services throughout all 50 states and parts of the Caribbean. Such services will include providing cable operators with regional and national video distribution, internet transmission services, and radio services. GE-7 will replace the aging Satcom C1 satellite.

GE-7 will be the 14th GE Americom satellite launched by Arianespace.

Riding in the upper position inside of the Ariane 506 payload fairing will be Astra 2B. Astra 2B will be the first satellite to separate.

Manufactured by Astrium of Toulouse, France, Astra 2B will be positioned at 28.2 degrees East over central Africa. Operating on behalf of Societe Europeenne des Satellites (SES) of Luxembourg, Astra 2B will use its 28 to 30 Ku-band transponders to provide radio, digital television, multimedia, and internet services to customers throughout Europe. Each of its transponders produce around 108 watts of power.

Astra 2B will weigh 7,293 pounds at launch later this evening and will feature an on-orbit mass of 3,332 pounds throughout most of its useful 15-year lifetime. Like GE-7, Astra 2B will be rolled up into a cubic configuration for launch, but it will unfold its 100-foot long solar arrays and its antennas after launch.

Astra 2B will be the 6th spacecraft that has been launched on an Ariane rocket for SES.

Flight 130 was delayed in back in July due to anomalies found in a ground test of thrusters used on the Ariane 5's storable propellant upper stage. The launch was originally set for July 25. Flight 130 was cleared for launch on Monday during the traditional launch readiness review held by senior Arianespace officials.

Yesterday, the vehicle was rolled out to the ELA-3 launch zone from the final assembly building.

Arianespace launch controllers in the Jupiter launch control room will begin the final countdown at 1354 GMT (9:54 a.m. EDT). Technicians and engineers will check the electrical systems of the rocket at 1524 GMT (11:24 a.m. EDT). Launch controllers will insure good connections between the launcher, telemetry, tracking, and command systems at 1654 GMT (12:54 p.m. EDT). The Ariane 506's main cryogenic stage will begin to be filled with its super-cold liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen propellant combination at 1734 GMT (1:34 p.m. EDT). Engineers will begin the chilldown process for the main cryogenic stage Vulcain engine at around 1934 GMT (3:34 p.m. EDT). The chilldown is executed by commanding the super-cold cryogenic propellant to flow through the fuel lines leading to the engine. At Minus-7 minutes, an "All systems go" report will be issued, followed shortly thereafter by the start of the Synchronized Sequence. Following the start of the sequence are a series of fast-paced events culminating in the ignition of the single Vulcain engine of the main cryogenic stage. The solid-fueled boosters of the Ariane 506 will ignite 7 seconds later, signaling liftoff.

Flight 130 will take a normal Ariane 5 ascent profile with 2-minute burns of the solid-fueled boosters and one long burn of both the main cryogenic stage and the storable propellant stage.

Flight 130 will be the 132nd flight of an Ariane launcher, the sixth overall launch of the Ariane 5, and the third commercial launch of the Ariane 5. It will be the seventh launch of the year for Arianespace, following five Ariane 4 missions and one Ariane 5 mission earlier in the year. All have been successful.

Spaceflight Now will provide play-by-play updates beginning around 30 minutes prior to launch this evening.


The Ariane 506 rocket has been fitted with its two satellite payloads as Arianespace looks ahead to the planned launch Thursday from Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff is set during a 55-minute launch window that opens at 2254 GMT and closes at 2349 GMT (6:54-7:49 p.m. EDT).

Early last week the satellites were mounted atop the rocket inside the final assembly building. The lower payload inside of the Ariane’Äôs payload fairing, GE-7, was installed inside of Sylda-5 dual payload carrier on Monday, September 4. During ascent, GE-7 will be the second and last of the payloads released from the Ariane 506.

Astra 2B was added in the upper position of the payload configuration on September 5. Astra 2B will be the first of the two payloads to be separated from the rocket.

Last Thursday saw the storable propellant upper stage's attitude control system being filled with its storable propellant. An anomaly during a test-firing of an attitude control thruster is what caused the nearly two-month daily of Flight 130.

On Friday, the storable upper stage itself was filled with its nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer and mono methyl hydrazine propellant combination.

The launch rehearsal for Flight 130 was conducted Friday at the Guiana Space Center. The Ariane 506 vehicle and its two payloads will be armed for launch today.

The traditional launch readiness review will be held by senior Arianespace officials at the spaceport on Tuesday, followed by final preparations of launcher and the two satellites.

On Wednesday, the Ariane 506 will be rolled from the final assembly building to the ELA-3 launch zone. ELA-3 features a "clean pad" design with no mobile service structure and the Ariane 5 rocket only requires around 24 hours on the pad for final preparations for the launch.

Launch day will see the final launch countdown and the fueling of the main cryogenic first stage with its liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel combination.

Stay tuned to us here at Spaceflight Now for complete coverage of the remainder of the launch campaign and of the mission on September 14.


With two Ariane 4 campaigns being conducted simultaneously at the Guiana Space Center, Arianespace has its Ariane 5 rocket back on track for launch on September 14 from the South American spaceport's ELA-3 launch zone.

The launch window has not yet been announced.

Flight 130 was originally set for launch on July 25, but Arianespace delayed the launch after an anomaly occurred during a test-firing of an attitude control system thruster at a European test facility. The thruster in question was on a future, but related version of the Ariane 5's storable propellant upper stage.

After the testing incident, Arianespace decided to switch out six similar control thrusters on Flight 130's Ariane 5 -- designated Ariane 506. The thrusters were shipped from their factory in Europe to the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, then the change-out occurred.

The Ariane 506 was powered up last week after a lengthy stand-by period since late July. Flight 130's launch vehicle then rolled over from the launcher integration building to the final assembly building on August 25.

With the Ariane 506 now in one of the final phases of the launch campaign inside of the final assembly building, last-minute tests and check-outs of critical launch systems will take place through September 13, when the Ariane 5 will be rolled out to the ELA-3 launch zone. ELA-3 features a "clean pad" design with no service gantry. The design of both the Ariane 5 and the launch pad enables Arianespace to leave its rocket inside of the final assembly building until just 24 hours before launch, compared to around two weeks with the older Ariane 4.

Also in the final assembly building, Flight 130's two payloads will be mated atop the vehicle equipment of the rocket. Encapsulation operations for the two spacecraft will occur inside of the satellite processing facility. Then, the complete unit, including the payloads, fairing, and adapter, will be transferred to the final assembly building for mating.

The payloads for the Ariane 506 are General Electric (GE) Americom's GE-7 satellite and the Astra 2B spacecraft for the Luxembourg-based Societe Europeenne des Satellites (SES). Both spacecraft will operate in geostationary orbit to provide communications services.

Arianespace officials say they are aiming to have a launch from the Guiana Space Center on an average of once every two or three weeks through the end of December. With this accelerated pace for both Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 rockets, a new Ariane 5 mobile launch table will be put into service later today. The mobile launch table carries the rocket during the entire length of the launch campaign -- from beginning to launch.

Before now, the Ariane 5 had used only one mobile launch table, which means that only one Ariane 5 could be prepared for launch at a time. Now, two Ariane 5's can be prepped for launch simultaneously. The Ariane 4 has had this capability for years using their smaller mobile launch tables.

Stay with Spaceflight Now for continued reports on Flight 130's progress through the coming weeks.


With Flight 131 operations on schedule for an August 17 launch, Arianespace is pulling double duty as it announced Friday that Flight 130 has been cleared for launch on September 14. Flight 130 will fly with the Ariane 5 rocket, known on this mission as Ariane 506, and will deliver the GE-7 and Astra 2B telecommunications satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbit for GE Americom and SES, respectively.

Flight 130 had been set for a July 25 launch, but problems with the upper stage's attitude control system were found during a test at the manufacturing facility in Europe. In an effort to assure success on Flight 130, Arianespace ordered a stand-down of processing.

After an investigation, it was discovered that the problem was caused in the brazing of two separate pieces inside of the failed thruster. After the root cause was found, Arianespace and Astrium, the thruster manufacturer, devised a plan to replace all six thrusters on Flight 130's upper stage. Thrusters that were selected were put through an intense inspection to insure that those thrusters did not have the same problem.

The chosen thrusters will be test-fired, then shipped to Kourou to be put onto the Ariane 506. Once installed onto the rocket, the launch campaign will pick up near where it left off. After the decision to halt the campaign was made, the Ariane rocket was rolled back into the Launcher Integration Building from the Final Assembly Building. It will remain there until the thrusters arrive and are integrated onto the vehicle.

After a few checks, the rocket should roll back into the Final Assembly Building, where it will await the integration of its two payloads, Astra 2B and GE-7. Astra 2B is already in the Final Assembly Building, where it is waiting for its launch vehicle to arrive again. The spacecraft is receiving a battery charge twice a week for conditioning and health purposes. GE-7 is still in its satellite processing facility and is in a sleep mode.

The launch campaign was halted with around two weeks left in the processing flow. The Ariane 506 rocket was completely assembled, and still is, with the exception of its two payloads, their Sylda-5 dual payload carrier, and their protective payload fairing.

Stay with Spaceflight Now for updated reports throughout the remainder of the launch campaign for Flight 130. Also, be sure to come by on launch day for updates on the final countdown and launch.

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2000

Arianespace has postponed the next flight of its Ariane 5 rocket, originally set for July 25 from Kourou, French Guiana.

The problem with the upper stage's attitude control system was found during a recent test of a similar stage design. After the anomaly was discovered, officials quickly made checks of the Ariane 506 launcher that was undergoing final preparations for its Flight 130 mission in Kourou. The decision on the delay was made after technicians were unable to confirm the flight readiness of the Ariane 5 storable propellant upper stage systems.

Arianespace will not give the go-ahead for launch of Flight 130 until its is certain that the problem will not pose a problem during the launch. Officials say that the flight is off until at least early September. After a quick assessment of the activities required to insure the flight readiness, Arianespace should announce a new target launch date.

Flight 130 had been set to loft the Astra 2B and GE-7 communications satellites for SES and GE Americom, respectively.

Arianespace is now gearing up for its next mission -- Flight 131. That mission will feature an Ariane 44LP rocket, which uses two liquid-fueled strap-on boosters and two solid-fueled strap-on boosters around the base of the rocket. Flight 131 will carry the Nilesat 102 and Brasilsat B4 communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Launch is set for August 11.


The processing flow for Arianespace's upcoming Flight 130 continues to go as planned and on schedule. On July 6, the Ariane 5 tagged for the mission rolled over from the Launcher Integration Building, where it has spent the last month, to the Final Assembly Building.

With the processing now in the final phase, Ariane 506, the third commercial Ariane 5 mission, will receive its payloads, the Astra 2B and GE-7 satellites, on July 12 and 13, followed by extensive tests to insure a good mating.

That will be followed on July 17 and 18 by fueling of the storable propellant upper stage with its propellants.

A launch rehearsal is set to take place on July 19 and the launcher and spacecraft will be armed on July 20. A final readiness review by senior officials on July 21 will insure readiness to roll-out the Ariane 506 vehicle from the Final Assembly Building to the launch zone ELA-3 on July 24, in preparation for a launch on July 25 during a 45-minute long launch window.

The 7,293-pound Astra 2B was fueled on June 30 and the 4,362-pound GE-7 was fueled on June 28.

A launch window has also been announced. The launch window opens at 2203 GMT (6:03 p.m. EDT) and closes at 2248 GMT (6:48 p.m. EDT).

MONDAY, JULY 3, 2000

Activities at the Guiana Space Center at Kourou, French Guiana are in full swing in preparation for Arianespace's upcoming Ariane 506 rocket launch. Liftoff is scheduled for July 25. It will be Arianespace's first launch since April after a lull caused by delays in satellite payloads being ready for flight.

On June 28, one of the Arianespace Flight 130 payloads, GE-7, was moved to the main payload building to begin fueling operations. GE-7 will operate as a telecommunications satellite at 137 degrees West in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. It will serve GE Americom. GE-7 and its C-band transponders will be able to transmit data to and from all 50 U.S. states and the Caribbean, replacing the aging Satcom C1 at 137 degrees West. The Lockheed Martin Space Systems-built craft also features a 47-foot long wing-span with its solar arrays fully deployed in orbit. The expected lifetime of GE-7 is around 15 years.

The 4,257-pound (1935 kg) GE-7 arrived in Kourou via an Arianespace sea vessel on June 13 to begin processing for the launch. Shortly afterwards, the spacecraft began and successfully completed checks of its electrical systems.

The other payload on the Ariane 506 mission, Astra 2B, arrived eight days earlier than other payload counter-part on June 5. Both before and after coming to the South American spaceport, the satellite went through the swap-out of all its on-board thrusters. These help to orient the satellite to provide sufficient power through its solar arrays. They also aid in station-keeping.

A problem with similar thrusters on other satellites were noticed earlier this year with one batch of the thrusters used on many different spacecraft. The thrusters were replaced on not just Astra 2B, but on various other satellites built by the same manufacturer, Matra Marconi Space. Matra Marconi Space later merged with some of the space systems divisions of DaimlerChrysler, the European auto manufacturer, creating a new company, Astrium. The launches of many spacecraft that were effected by this campaign were pushed back, forcing Arianespace to stand-down its launches after their last space shot in April.

Astra 2B will be operating by Societe Europeenne des Satellites (SES), which means European company of the satellites when translated into English. The 7,260-pound (3300 kg) Astra 2B will be positioned at 28.2 degrees East so its 30 transponders can broadcast television all across Europe. The spacecraft also features a 3-axis stabilization system. The expected orbital lifetime of Astra 2B is around 14 years.

Back in the Launcher Integration Building, the Ariane 506 rocket that will carry both of these satellites into orbit is also on schedule. The rocket passed a critical point in the processing flow on June 21 when the electrical and plumbing systems on the Ariane 506 were checked out for flight. Included in the test was the gimballing of the launcher's rocket engine nozzles that power the main cryogenic stage and the storable propellant upper stage.

In the Final Assembly Building, the Sylda-5 twin payload separation system in undergoing final tests. Also, the two pieces of the Ariane 506 payload fairing have arrived and are being unpacked.

Preparations for Flight 130 began back on May 29 with the standard pre-mission review. On the same day, the launcher's main cryogenic stage was taken out of its storage container. Still later on the same day, the stage was suspended over the mobile launch table. Then, on May 31, the rocket's twin solid rocket boosters were rolled into the Launcher Integration Building.

On June 5, after checks with the solid boosters and the main cryogenic stage, the twin boosters were rolled into position and mated with the main stage. The main cryogenic stage never makes contact with the mobile launch table. Instead, it is suspended between the two solid rocket boosters.

Just four days later, on June 9, the launcher's storable propellant upper stage and the Vehicle Equipment Bay (VEB) were lowered into position atop the Ariane 5. The upper stage is powered by the Aestus re-startable engine. The Aestus is fueled by N204 and MMH. Located inside the VEB are the vehicle's flight and control computers.

Looking ahead, after more final tests, the launcher will be rolled over to the Final Assembly Building for the mating of the two payloads, the Sylda-5 multiple payload carrier, and the large payload fairing to the top of the rocket. After last-minute checks, the launcher will be rolled out to ELA-3 on July 24 in preparation for a scheduled July 25 lift-off. A launch window has not yet been announced. It is expected soon.

For the launch, Astra 2B, the heavier of the two, will be located in the upper position on the Sylda-5. GE-7 will be located on bottom, and thus, will be deployed into orbit last.

Stay with Spaceflight Now for continuing coverage of the processing flow and the launch.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payload: Astra 2B & GE-7
Launch date: Sept. 14, 2000
Launch window: 2254-2349 GMT (6:54-7:49 p.m. EDT)
Launch site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana

Pre-launch Briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of the events to occur during launch.

Track - A map shows the typical orbital track an Ariane 5 follows to space.

Ariane directory - See our previous coverage of Ariane rocket launches.

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