BY JUSTIN RAY
March 22, 2000 -- Follow the launch of the Ariane 505 rocket with the AsiaStar and Insat 3B communications satellites. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 2000
0500 GMT (12:00 a.m. EST)
The Ariane 505 rocket successfully launched into the night on Tuesday, placing a pair of communications satellites in space to serve Asia. Read our launch story for complete details about Arianespace Flight 128.
Meanwhile, Arianespace has released information on the highly accurate orbit achieved tonight. At orbit injection, the perigee achieved was 558 km for a target of 560 km, an apogee of 35,763 km for the target of 35,881 km and inclination of 6.99 degrees of the target 7.00 degrees to the equator.
0008 GMT (7:08 p.m. EST)
Indian space officials confirm the Insat 3B satellite has established contact with its master control facility on Earth. The satellite is reported healthy and oriented properly following launch tonight.
We will pause our coverage for now. Check back later tonight for a full story about the launch and some images of the countdown and liftoff.
0003 GMT (7:03 p.m. EST)
Plus+35 minutes. INSAT 3B SEPARATION! Data from the Ariane 5 rocket indicates the Indian Insat 3B communications satellite has been released into orbit. This successfully completes the major events for tonight's launch, the second commercial flight of Ariane 5.
0002 GMT (7:02 p.m. EST)
Plus+33 minutes, 30 seconds. Coming up release of Insat 3B in just over one minute.
0001 GMT (7:01 p.m. EST)
Plus+32 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude 2460 km, velocity is 8.02 km/sec.
0000 GMT (7:00 p.m. EST)
Plus+31 minutes, 30 seconds. The Sylda 5 payload shroud that carried the Insat 3B satellite during launch has been released. Also, the Ariane 5 upper stage has been oriented for deployment of Insat 3B in about three minutes.
TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2000
2358 GMT (6:58 p.m. EST)
Plus+30 minutes, 15 seconds. Altitude 2160 km, velocity is 8.2 km/sec.
2357 GMT (6:57 p.m. EST)
Plus+29 minutes, 15 seconds. The first contact has been made the AsiaStar satellite through a ground station. The spacecraft is alive following its arrival in orbit tonight.
2356 GMT (6:56 p.m. EST)
Plus+28 minutes, 15 seconds. ASIASTAR SEPARATION! Arianespace has confirmed the AsiaStar radio broadcasting satellite has been released into space from the Ariane 5 rocket.
2355 GMT (6:55 p.m. EST)
Plus+27 minutes. The upper stage has shutdown has planned to complete powered flight for tonight's launch. The stage will now provide proper pointing and spinup for deployment of the two satellites.
2355 GMT (6:55 p.m. EST)
Plus+26 minutes, 30 seconds. Standing by for cutoff of the storable upper stage. Altitude is 1440 km, 8.65 km/sec.
2354 GMT (6:54 p.m. EST)
Plus+25 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 1277 km, 8.59 km/sec.
2353 GMT (6:53 p.m. EST)
Plus+24 minutes, 30 seconds. Just over two minutes remaining in powered flight tonight for Arianespace Flight 128. Altitude is 1132 km, 8.52 km/sec.
2352 GMT (6:52 p.m. EST)
Plus+23 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 1001 km, 8.46 km/sec.
2351 GMT (6:51 p.m. EST)
Plus+22 minutes, 30 seconds. The Malindi tracking station in Kenya, Africa, has acquired the Ariane 5 rocket's signal.
2350 GMT (6:50 p.m. EST)
Plus+21 minutes, 30 seconds. About five minutes remaining in the upper stage firing tonight. No problems are being reported with the launch. Altitude is 781 km, 8.3 km/sec.
2349 GMT (6:49 p.m. EST)
Plus+20 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 691 km, 8.28 km/sec.
2348 GMT (6:48 p.m. EST)
Plus+19 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 607 km, 8.22 km/sec.
2346 GMT (6:46 p.m. EST)
Plus+17 minutes, 30 seconds. About 9 minutes left in the upper stage firing. Altitude is 471 km, 8.2 km/sec.
2345 GMT (6:45 p.m. EST)
Plus+16 minutes, 30 seconds. Trajectory still reported normal. Altitude is 414 km, 8.3 km/sec.
2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST)
Plus+15 minutes, 30 seconds. The Ariane 5 has passed out of range from the Natal tracking station. Altitude is 355 km, 7.9 km/sec.
2343 GMT (6:43 p.m. EST)
Plus+14 minutes, 30 seconds. The Ariane 5 rocket's upper stage continues in its long-duration firing tonight to place the AsiaStar and Insat 3B communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth. Altitude is 322 km, velocity 7.8 km/sec.
2341 GMT (6:41 p.m. EST)
Plus+12 minutes, 30 seconds. The Ascension Island tracking station in the mid-Atlantic Ocean has picked up signals from the Ariane 505 rocket.
2340 GMT (6:40 p.m. EST)
Plus+11 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 222 km, velocity is 7.7 km/sec.
2338 GMT (6:38 p.m. EST)
Plus+10 minutes, 10 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 AsiaStar and Insat 3B satellites into orbit.
Also, the tracking stations at the launch site have lost contact with the Ariane 5 has it heads downrange.
2338 GMT (6:38 p.m. EST)
Plus+9 minutes, 30 seconds. Less than 30 seconds left in the rocket's main cryogenic stage burn.
2337 GMT (6:37 p.m. EST)
Plus+8 minutes, 30 seconds. The Natal tracking station has acquired signal from the Ariane 5 rocket. Altitude is 160.8 km.
2336 GMT (6:36 p.m. EST)
Plus+7 minutes, 30 seconds. The Ariane 505 rocket has reached the period in flight where it levels out in altitude in order to gain speed. Altitude is 161.7 km.
2335 GMT (6:35 p.m. EST)
Plus+6 minutes, 30 seconds. No problems have been reported in tonight's launch of the Ariane 505 rocket. Altitude is 160.8 km, velocity is 3.87 km/sec.
2334 GMT (6:34 p.m. EST)
Plus+5 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 154.2 km, velocity is 3.2 km/sec.
2333 GMT (6:33 p.m. EST)
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 138 km, velocity is 2.7 km/sec.
2332 GMT (6:32 p.m. EST)
Plus+3 minutes, 30 seconds. The protective payload fairing has been separated from the Ariane 5. Altitude is 112 km.
2331 GMT (6:31 p.m. EST)
Plus+2 minutes, 30 seconds. The solid rocket boosters have been jettisoned from the Ariane 5 rocket's core stage. Altitude is 72 km, velocity is 2.1 km/sec.
2330 GMT (6:30 p.m. EST)
Plus+90 seconds. Trajectory is normal. Burnout of the twin solid rocket boosters is a minute away.
2329 GMT (6:29 p.m. EST)
Plus+1 minute. All vehicle systems reported normal.
2329 GMT (6:29 p.m. EST)
Plus+30 seconds. Rocket has completed its pitch and rolls maneuvers. Vehicle has disappeared in the clouds.
2328:30 GMT (6:28:30 p.m. EST)
LIFTOFF! The Ariane 5 rocket launches into the night with the AsiaStar and Insat 3B communications satellites.
2327 GMT (6:27 p.m. EST)
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.
2326 GMT (6:26 p.m. EST)
Minus-2 minutes. Today's launch will be the 128th for an Ariane rocket, the 3rd of 2000 and the fifth of Ariane 5.
2324 GMT (6:24 p.m. EST)
Minus-4 minutes. Pressurization now underway for the main cryogenic stage's liquid oxygen and hydrogen tanks. Liftoff is planned for about 2328:30 GMT (6:28:30 p.m. EST).
2322 GMT (6:22 p.m. EST)
Minus-6 minutes, 30 seconds. 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.
2321 GMT (6:21 p.m. EST)
The problems are fixed and the countdown is being restarted.
2320 GMT (6:20 p.m. EST)
The launch pad problem has been fixed. Still waiting on the AsiaStar glitch to be resolved. Weather conditions are currently acceptable, too.
2318 GMT (6:18 p.m. EST)
Arianespace says the earlier weather concern could become a problem again before the close of tonight's launch window at 2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST). "We are not dead yet, but it is not looking good," the Arianespace commentator just said.
2317 GMT (6:17 p.m. EST)
There are 20 minutes left before the countdown must resume from its current holding point at Minus-7 minutes in order to launch before the close of tonight's window at 2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST).
The Arianespace launch team is working a pair of technical problems -- one with the launch complex and the other with the AsiaStar satellite payload atop the Ariane 5 rocket. Specific details on either problem have not been released by Arianespace.
2312 GMT (6:12 p.m. EST)
A second problem has arisen. The AsiaStar is now "no go" for launch due to a synchronization problem, Arianespace says. Tonight's launch window extends to 2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST) in which to resolve these glitches and get the Ariane 505 rocket off the ground.
2308 GMT (6:08 p.m. EST)
The countdown has been recycled back to Minus-7 minutes due to an undisclosed problem with the launch pad. The Ariane 5 rocket and other systems are being put back into the configuration they were in at Minus-7 minutes, simply "undoing" the work performed during the 69 seconds the countdown had procedured earlier before the hold.
2305 GMT (6:05 p.m. EST)
Hold! The countdown has been stopped at Minus-5 minutes, 51 seconds due to a problem with the launch complex.
2304 GMT (6:04 p.m. EST)
Minus-7 minutes and counting!
2303 GMT (6:03 p.m. EST)
The weather problem has been cleared. The concern was an electrical storm risk at high altitude. Countdown will start momentarily.
2300 GMT (6:00 p.m. EST)
Officials say the weather concern could be cleared in about 10 minutes.
2255 GMT (5:55 p.m. EST)
The Arianespace commentators in the launch control center say they do not know what the specific weather problem is tonight. Weather in the Kourou area has been lousy for the past few days with cloudy skies and rain.
The countdown remains holding at Minus-7 minutes. Clocks can hold here until 2337 GMT (6:37 p.m. EST) before having to resume in order to launch at the very end of tonight's window at 2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST).
2251 GMT (5:51 p.m. EST)
Arianespace says despite the announcement a moment ago that weather conditions were acceptable, the weather is now "no go" for launch. That forced the launch team to stop the countdown at Minus-7 minutes. The countdown can hold here through the launch window in hopes weather conditions will improve. Tonight's window extends 47 minutes to 2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST).
2250 GMT (5:50 p.m. EST)
Minus-7 minutes and holding! A hold has been called due to weather.
2249 GMT (5:49 p.m. EST)
Minus-8 minutes and counting. The final weather report has been issued and conditions are acceptable for launch at 2257 GMT (5:57 p.m. EST), Arianespace says.
2247 GMT (5:47 p.m. EST)
Minus-10 minutes and counting. All systems remain "go" for launch and the status board in the control center is all green. At the ELA-3 launch zone, the Ariane 505 rocket is poised for liftoff with powerful flood lights illuminating the mighty launcher. Tonight will mark the first night launch of an Ariane 5 rocket.
2242 GMT (5:42 p.m. EST)
Minus-15 minutes and counting. Sitting atop the Ariane 5 rocket are the AsiaStar radio broadcasting satellite for WorldSpace Corp. and the Insat 3B telecommunications satellite for the Indian Space Research Organization. The payloads account for 10,663 pounds at liftoff.
AsiaStar was delivered to the Kourou launch site on January 28. The craft -- built by Matra Marconi Space for Alcatel Space Industries -- will be positioned in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth's equator at 105 degrees East. Operator WorldSpace of Washington, D.C., will use the satellite to provide digital radio broadcasts over Asia. AsiaStar is a Eurostar 2000+ satellite platform with a 15-year life expectancy.
Enclosed within the Sylda 5 dual payload system, and beneath AsiaStar, is the Indian Insat 3B spacecraft. Built by the Indian Space Research Organization of Bangalore, India, the telecommunications satellite will be positioned in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth's equator at 83 degrees East. Insat 3B carries 12 C-band transponders, three Ku-band transponders, one transponder in S-band for Mobile Satellite Services and a Ku beacon. The satellite has a 10-year expected service life. Insat 3B arrived in Kourou on February 2.
2237 GMT (5:37 p.m. EST)
Minus-20 minutes and counting. The Ariane 5 rocket stands fully fueled and ready for liftoff at 2257 GMT (5:57 p.m. EST). 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.
2232 GMT (5:32 p.m. EST)
Minus-25 minutes and counting. Activaties are on track for tonight's launch of the Ariane 505 rocket at 2257 GMT (5:57 p.m. EST).
2227 GMT (5:27 p.m. EST)
Now 30 minutes away from the opening of today's 47-minute launch window. Still awaiting the start of Arianespace's live broadcast from Kourou.
2020 GMT (3:20 p.m. EST)
The Ariane 5 rocket is being fueled under very cloudy skies at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. The status board in the Jupiter control center is green indicating all technical systems are go for launch. Liftoff is still scheduled for 2257 GMT (5:57 p.m. EST).
1800 GMT (1 p.m. EST)
The countdown is well underway in South America for tonight's launch of a European Ariane 5 rocket carrying a pair of Asian communications satellites. Liftoff remains set to occur at 2257 GMT (5:57 p.m. EST). There is a 47-minute launch window extending to 2344 GMT (6:44 p.m. EST). Arianespace Flight 128 will mark the fifth launch of an Ariane 5 rocket.
We will have comprehensive live coverage beginning 30 minutes prior launch. Our reports will include updates on the countdown, the satellite passengers and a play-by-play call of the flight.
MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2000
The second commercial launch of Europe's Ariane 5 rocket is on tap for Tuesday night from Kourou, French Guiana. The heavy-lift launcher will carry the AsiaStar radio broadcasting satellite and India's Insat 3B telecommunications spacecraft into Earth orbit.
The fully assembled Ariane 505 rocket was rolled from its processing building to the ELA-3 launch complex today on a dual rail track. The hour-long move began at about 1 p.m. local time. Once at the open-air pad, the mobile launch table was fixed in place.
Countdown clocks will begin ticking at 1357 GMT (8:57 a.m. EST) on Tuesday at the Minus-9 hours. Final readiness checks will start at Minus-7 hours, 30 minutes with the electrical systems, followed by tests of connections between the rocket and the telemetry, tracking and command systems. Loading of the main cryogenic stage with liquid oxygen and hydrogen is scheduled to start at Minus-5 hours, 20 minutes, or 1737 GMT (12:37 p.m. EST). Thermal conditioned of the Vulcain main engine for launch begins two hours later.
If all systems are "go" and no problems are found, the launch team will start the computer-controlled Synchronized Sequence at Minus-6 minutes, 30 seconds. This automatic sequence performs the last tasks to prepare the rocket for liftoff. However, if there is a problem being discussed, officials will hold the countdown before entering the Synchronized Sequence.
The automated ignition sequence will commence at Minus-37 seconds. A flood of water at the launch pad will start at Minus-30 seconds to suppress the sound at liftoff. Control of the countdown is handed to the Ariane 5 rocket's onboard computer at Minus-22 seconds. At Minus-3 seconds, the rocket's two inertial guidance system switch to flight mode.
When the clocks reach Minus-0, the Vulcain main engine will roar to life. Computers will quickly check to ensure the engine is operating properly. If no problems are found, the twin solid rocket boosters are commanded to ignite at Plus+7 seconds. Liftoff will occur at Plus+7.3 seconds.
Arianespace will have a 47-minute window in which to launch the Ariane 505 rocket on Tuesday starting at 2257 GMT (5:57 p.m. EST). The launch will occur in darkness, a first for an Ariane 5 rocket.
Just under 28 minutes later, the AsiaStar satellite should be released into space from the Ariane's upper stage. The Insat 3B spacecraft is scheduled to be deployed about 34 1/2 minutes into flight.