Spaceflight Now: Mission Report


October 6, 2000 -- Follow the preparations and launch of the Japanese N-SAT-110 communications satellite aboard an Arianespace Ariane 4 rocket. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.


Europe's workhorse Ariane 4 rocket took its 99th flight Friday night and successfully placed a Japanese television and data broadcasting satellite into orbit. Read our full story and see more pictures of the launch.

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

Plus+20 minutes, 40 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The Japanese N-SAT-110 television and data broadcasting satellite has been released into space from the Ariane's third stage, completing tonight's launch of Arianespace Flight 133. No problems were reported during the launch, which began right on time. This marks the 57th consecutive success for Ariane 4.

Check back later tonight for a full wrap up story on the launch and pictures.

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

Plus+19 minutes, 30 seconds. One minute until payload release. Altitude now 272 km, velocity is 9.7 km/sec.

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

Plus+19 minutes. Third stage has shut down to complete the powered flight. The stage will now provide the necessary pointing for deployment of the N-SAT-110 spacecraft in the next minute.

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

Plus+18 minutes. Under a minute left in the third stage burn. The Libreville tracking station in Africa has acquired the Ariane 4 rocket.

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

Plus+17 minutes. The rocket has bottomed out in its sling-shot to orbit and now climbing higher. Altitude is 195 km, velocity 8.8 km/sec.

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

Plus+16 minutes, 20 seconds. Altitude is 193 km, velocity 8.4 km/sec.

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

Plus+14 minutes. Less than five minutes left in the third stage burn. Officials report all data coming from the rocket indicate systems are working as planned. Altitude is 215 km, velocity 7.3 km/sec.

2312 GMT (7:12 p.m. EDT)

Plus+12 minutes, 30 seconds. The Ascension Island tracking station in the Atlantic Ocean has acquired the rocket's signal as it heads eastward away from South America. Altitude is 238 km, velocity 6.78 km/sec.

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

Plus+11 minutes. Now reaching the period in flight where the Ariane rocket gives up a bit of altitude in order to gain velocity like a sling-shot. Altitude is 255 km, velocity 6.2 km/sec.

2310 GMT (7:10 p.m. EDT)

Plus+10 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 259.8 km, velocity is 6 km/sec.

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

Plus+8 minutes. Altitude is 247.9 km, velocity 5.43 km/sec.

2307 GMT (7:07 p.m. EDT)

Plus+7 minutes. The Natal tracking station in Brazil has picked up the rocket's signal. Ariane 4 remains on course with a smooth flight continuing.

2306 GMT (7:06 p.m. EDT)

Plus+6 minutes. Vehicle trajectory is normal. Altitude is 193 km, velocity 5 km/sec.

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

Plus+5 minutes, 35 seconds. Burnout of the second stage has occurred and the spent stage has jettisoned. The cryogenic upper stage has now ignited for its long-duration burn to deliver the communications satellite payload into orbit.

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

Plus+4 minutes. No problems reported with the Ariane 4 rocket's second stage, which is now firing to propel N-SAT-110 towards space. Also the payload fairing has been jettisoned since it is no longer needed to shield the satellite. Altitude is 127 km, velocity 3.6 km/sec.

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

Plus+3 minutes, 30 seconds. The four first stage main engines have shut down and stage separation confirmed. The second stage has now ignited.

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

Plus+2 minutes, 25 seconds. A smooth flight so far for the Ariane 4 rocket. The twin strap-on liquid-fuel rocket motors have shut down out and separated from the first stage. The first stage engines are still burning.

2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)

Plus+90 seconds. Ariane 4 continues the climb to orbit. Altitude is 11 km, velocity is 0.4 km/sec.

2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)

Plus+60 seconds. All vehicle systems performing normal.

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

Plus+30 seconds. Ariane is in the pitch maneuver to achieve the proper trajectory eastward away from the launch site. Main engines and liquid strap-on rocket boosters are all firing as the vehicle heads into the nighttime sky in South America.

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

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of Arianespace Flight 133 launching the N-SAT-110 telecommunications broadcasting satellite to serve Japan. And the Ariane 4 rocket has cleared the tower.

2259 GMT (6:59 p.m. EDT)

Minus-1 minute. Equipment aboard the Ariane 42L rocket is being switched off ground-supplied power to onboard batteries for launch.

In the final seconds of the countdown, activities will include releasing the inertial platform at minus 9 seconds, and the release command to the retraction system for the two cryogenic arms will be given at minus 5 seconds.

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

Minus-3 minutes and counting. Flight 133 will be the 8th Ariane launch so far in 2000 and the 133rd in the entire Ariane program. It will be the 99th Ariane 4 mission and the 12th for the Ariane 42L version with two strap-on liquid rocket boosters.

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

Minus-4 minutes and counting. The launch team is watching over the final topping off of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen supplies aboard the rocket's third stage.

In the next half-minute, the launch time will be loaded aboard the Ariane rocket's guidance system. Also, the N-SAT-110 spacecraft will be confirmed on internal power and declared ready for launch.

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

Minus-6 minutes. The synchronized launch sequence has started. Computers are now in control of this final segment of the launch countdown. Liftoff still targeted for 2300 GMT (7:00 p.m. EDT).

During the next six minutes, the Ariane 42L rocket, satellite payload and ground systems will be configured for launch. There are two master computers running the countdown. One is responsible for fluids and propellants and the other for final preparation of the electrical systems such as initiating the flight program, activation of the engine steering systems and power transfer from ground supplies to onboard batteries. The computers will control until minus 5 seconds when a majority logic sequencer takes over for first stage engine start at zero seconds. Engine performance checks are done in parallel by the two computers starting at plus 2.8 seconds. Finally, the command will be issued to open the launch table clamps for liftoff between ignition +plus 4.1 and 4.6 seconds.

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

Minus-7 minutes and counting. Arianespace reports all systems are "go" across the board. Weather conditions are also acceptable for launch at 2300 GMT (7:00 p.m. EDT). Skies are clear tonight over Kourou.

The computer-run synchronized sequence to launch will start in one minute.

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

Minus-10 minutes. The countdown continues smoothly. Liftoff remains set to occur at 2300 GMT (7:00 p.m. EDT).

A network of tracking stations are standing ready to relay data from the Ariane 4 rocket to engineers in Kourou. The early portion of flight will be monitored through the Kourou and Cayenne stations in French Guiana. About 6 minutes, 30 seconds into flight the Natal station in Brazil will pick up the rocket's signal as the third stage burn gets underway. At plus 12 minutes, 50 seconds the site on Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean will begin coverage. Libreville in Gabon will provide services beginning at T+plus 17 minutes, 55 seconds for spacecraft separation and the conclusion of Arianespace Flight 133.

2246 GMT (6:46 p.m. EDT)

Minus-14 minutes and counting. Clocks are ticking down the final minutes to tonight's launch of the Ariane 4 rocket carrying the N-SAT-110 spacecraft designed to provide television, Internet and data transmission services to Japan. It was built in the United States by Lockheed Martin for Japanese satellite operators Space Communications Corp. (SCC) and JSAT Corp. N-SAT-110's final orbital slot will be 110 degrees East longitude above the Indonesian archipelago along Earth's equator.

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

Minus-17 minutes. The Ariane 42L rocket stands 54.4 meters tall and weighs 371 metric tons at liftoff. The N-SAT-110 spacecraft accounts for 3,531 kg of that weight.

2240 GMT (6:40 p.m. EDT)

Minus-20 minutes. Launch team members are watching systems on the Ariane 4 rocket, N-SAT-110 spacecraft and ground support equipment. Everything is working as planned, officials say, and the weather is acceptable for tonight's launch at the top of the hour.

The rocket is now fully fueled at the ELA-2 launch pad. The first and second stages and twin strap-on motors were loaded with storable propellants earlier this week. The third stage was filled with cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen over the last three hours.

2230 GMT (6:30 p.m. EDT)

Arianespace reports its 99th Ariane 4 rocket remains on track for launch tonight from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, along South America's northeast coastline. Liftoff will be possible during a window extending from 2300 to 2346 GMT (7:00 to 7:46 p.m. EDT). The three-stage rocket will place the N-SAT-110 communications satellite into Earth orbit for this 133rd flight by Arianespace.

There are no problems being reported as the countdown clock ticks off the final one-half-hour until liftoff.

2015 GMT (4:15 p.m. EDT)

The Ariane 4 rocket's third stage is being fueled as the countdown continues in Kourou, French Guiana, for tonight's launch of the Japanese N-Sat-110 telecommunications broadcasting satellite. The status panel in the Jupiter Control Center is green across the board, indicating all systems are "go". Liftoff remains scheduled for 2300 GMT (7 p.m. EDT).

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

Arianespace is once again preparing for another launch from its spaceport in French Guiana, located on the border between the jungle and sea. For this launch, an Ariane 4 rocket will place a Japanese communications satellite into Earth orbit on Flight 133.

Tonight's launch is set during a 46-minute launch window that extends from 2300 GMT to 2346 GMT (7:00 p.m.-7:46 p.m. EDT). Flight 133 will be the 133rd Ariane launch since the family's inception. It will also be the 99th flight of an Ariane 4 and the 12th flight of the Ariane 42L.

Inside the Ariane 4's protective payload fairing is the N-SAT-110 commercial communications satellite -- built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems (LMCSS) of Sunnyvale, California. The satellite is based on Lockheed Martin's A2100-AX spacecraft series.

N-SAT-110 will operate for two Japanese telecommunications companies -- Space Communications Corporation (SCC) and JSAT Corporation (JSAT). Including Flight 133, Arianespace has launched six satellites for SCC and three for JSAT.

N-SAT-110 is also called Superbird 5. The craft will be positioned 22,300 miles high above the islands of Indonesia at 110 degrees East longitude. Services offered for both communications corporations during the bird's 15-year lifetime will include television, internet, and wire/data transmission services for the Japanese islands. Superbird 5 is a third-generation satellite in the Superbird family of satellites. It follows Superbird 4, which was launched atop an Ariane 4 rocket in February of this year.

The Flight 133 payload will weigh 7,768 pounds at launch time tonight, most of that being fuel and propellant. The craft's dry mass with no liquids is 3,671 pounds. Like most communications satellites, the satellite will be rolled up into a 6-meter cube for launch. Once in operation, however, the spacecraft will have extended its power-producing solar arrays to a wingspan of over 75 feet. The communications payload of N-SAT-110 consists of 24 Ku-band transponders, each with 120 Watts of power.

The Ariane 42L rocket's first stage, second stage, and two liquid-fueled strap-on boosters were fueled with their storable propellant/oxidizer fuel combination on Thursday.

Looking ahead toward today's key launch events, the final countdown will commence at 0830 GMT (4:30 a.m. EDT). The 321-foot tall protective service gantry will be rolled back to the launch position starting at 1705 GMT (1:05 p.m. EDT). The service gantry provides workers access to the rocket and also protects critical systems from possible violent weather. At 1925 GMT (3:25 p.m. EDT), the third stage fueling will begin with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen being loaded into the propellant tanks. Just over an hour before launch at 2155 GMT (5:55 p.m. EDT), the launcher's telemetry, radar transponders, and telecommand systems will be brought online to support the launch. At Minus-6 minutes, controllers in the Jupiter launch control room will start the Synchronized Launch Sequence. Following this important milestone, a series of fast-paced events will occur, culminating in the ignition of the first stage and liquid-fueled boosters, followed four-and-a-half seconds later by liftoff.

Flight 133 will take a normal Ariane 42L ascent profile with a two-minute burn of both strap-on boosters, a three-minute burn of the first stage, a two-minute burn of the second stage, and a 13-minute burn of the cryogenic third stage. Spacecraft separation is expected just over 20 minutes into flight.

Spaceflight Now will provide continuous play-by-play updates of tonight's launch beginning at T-minus 20 minutes.


Arianespace Flight 133 on Wednesday was cleared for launch by senior launch officials at the Arianespace headquarters building in Kourou, French Guiana. Launch of the Ariane 42L is set for Friday evening during a 46-minute launch window.

That launch window opens at 1900 GMT (7:00 p.m. EDT) and closes at 1946 GMT (7:46 p.m. EDT). Flight 133 will be the 99th launch of an Ariane 4 rocket and the 12th flight of the Ariane 42L configuration of the rocket.

The launch readiness review included both payload representatives from the N-SAT-110 processing crew and members of the Arianespace launch team.

A mission rehearsal was conducted for Flight 133 on Tuesday, alongside normal check-out activities that lead up to a launch. Such activities include personnel entering the first stage access door for an inspection of the first stage interfaces and propellant tanks, among other things.

Also since our last update, the N-SAT-110 has been mated onto the Ariane launch vehicle. That operation followed the so-called encapsulation process and other payload processing milestones. N-SAT-110 was transferred to the ELA-2 launch pad from the S3B payload processing facility on Friday, September 29. The mating took place on Monday.

Flight 133 will be the eighth mission for Arianespace this year. Two Ariane 5 rockets and six Ariane 4 rockets have been flown.

Stay tuned to us at Spaceflight Now for complete coverage of the Flight 133 mission.


After conducting three launches from its South American spaceport in one month's time, Arianespace, albeit delayed by almost two weeks due to satellite difficulties, is making preparations for its next mission on Flight 133. Launch is set for some time in early October, but an exact date and time has not yet been announced by the European launch company.

The launch campaign started back on August 28 with the standard pre-mission review by launch managers, followed shortly thereafter on the same day by first stage erection on the mobile launch table inside of the assembly building. The second stage was placed atop the first stage the next day.

Over the following days, the rocket's third stage and vehicle equipment bay (VEB) were installed atop the vehicle. The VEB is commonly called the "brains" of the rocket because it contains most of the critical systems for the launcher such as telemetry systems, the data handling computer, and the command and control computer. All Ariane 4 rockets use the same basic three stage configuration, along with the VEB.

Originally, Flight 133 was to have carried the Europe*Star FM-1 telecommunications satellite, but a "change was required by the last-minute unavailability of Europe*Star (FM-1), which will be orbited by Arianespace at a future date once the spacecraft is declared ready for flight by the customer," read an Arianespace statement. Flight 133 will now launch the N-SAT-110 communications satellite.

The change in payloads to the lighter N-SAT-110 also required that the version of the Ariane 4 that will loft it to orbit had to be changed. The Ariane 4 was supposed to have flown in the Ariane 44LP version with Europe*Star FM-1. Arianespace is currently adapting the vehicle to fly in the Ariane 42L configuration with two liquid-fueled strap-on boosters.

The Ariane 42L received its two liquid-fueled strap-on boosters while in the ELA-2 assembly bay. The rocket was transferred to the launch zone on September 12. Arianespace is currently finishing up the changes required to the rocket, which include removing the solid-fueled booster attach points and adding four stabilization fins to the first stage. The fins take the place of the solid boosters when only liquid-fueled boosters are used to provide additional attitude control during atmospheric ascent.

Earlier this week, Arianespace launch controllers gathered in the Jupiter launch control room to take part in the mission rehearsal. The rehearsal included a thorough simulation of the final countdown and the launch.

N-SAT-110 was originally set to be flown later this year, but the rocket was bumped up to Flight 133 after Europe*Star FM-1 was delayed. The craft arrived in Kourou on August 28 and is currently being fueled in a satellite preparation facility. It will be placed and locked on top of the payload adapter after the craft's toxic attitude control propellants are safely loaded aboard. The spacecraft will be placed inside of its payload fairing and transported to the launch zone once all final preparations are complete.

Superbird 5 is the common name for N-SAT-110 and will serve both Space Communications Corporation (SCC) and Japan Satellite Systems, Inc. (JSAT). Built by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space (LMMS), Superbird 5 will provide communications services to the Japanese islands.

Stay with Spaceflight Now over the next few weeks for continuing updates on the campaign, countdown and launch.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Ariane 42L
Payload: N-SAT-110
Launch date: Oct. 6, 2000
Launch window: 2300-2346 GMT (7:00-7:46 p.m. EDT)
Launch site: ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana

Ariane 4 rocket blasts off with N-SAT-110. Photo: Courtesy Arianespace

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

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

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