Spaceflight Now: Mission Report

Ariane 4 sails on smooth flight with Japanese cargo

Posted: October 6, 2000

The Ariane 42L rocket blasts off with N-SAT-110. Images show the thermal shields being released from rocket, view from a remote camera site, the plumes from the liquid-fueled engines and the flash as the twin strap-on boosters separate. Photos: Arianespace
Europe's workhorse Ariane 4 rocket took its 99th flight Friday night and successfully placed a Japanese television and data broadcasting satellite into orbit.

Liftoff of the three-stage booster occurred at 2300 GMT (7 p.m. EDT) from Kourou, French Guiana along South America's northeast coastline.

Just over 20 minutes later the N-SAT-110 spacecraft was deployed, completing Arianespace's 133rd mission and eighth of 2000. It also marked the 57th straight success for the Ariane 4 stretching back 66 months.

"It looked easy. As a matter of fact it was easy," Arianespace's chief operating officer Jacques Rossignol said proudly after the launch. "It is always a pleasure to have an on-time and easy ride."

N-SAT-110 was built in the United States by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems for two Japanese satellite operators -- Space Communications Corporation and JSAT Corporation of Tokyo. The two firms will jointly use the craft once it enters service in mid-November from an orbital position in geostationary orbit at 110 degrees East longitude, or high above the Indonesian archipelago along Earth's equator.

Based upon Lockheed Martin's A2100AX-model satellite, the craft features 24 Ku-band transponders that will be used to provide direct television broadcasting, Internet and data transmission services across Japan.

Ground controllers established contact with N-SAT-110 about 64 minutes after launch via the Lockheed Martin satellite tracking station in Uralla, Australia.

Data released by Arianespace indicated the Ariane 4 rocket performed as envisioned, delivering the satellite into an egg-shaped geosynchronous transfer orbit ranging from 200 km at the low end to 35,980 km at the high point.

Plans call for five altitude raising maneuvers using the satellite's onboard kick engine over the next week, propelling the craft up to its final destination in a circular orbit. Deployment of its two power-generating solar arrays is scheduled for Oct. 14, with a thorough series of on-orbit tests to follow before entering commercial service.

As Arianespace workers turn their attention to the next Ariane rocket launch, officials have shuffled the planned line up of flights.

"We had planned to launch an Ariane 5 on October 31. Since one of the (satellite) passengers is late, we decided...we would swap two flights and will be launching an Ariane 4 on October 27 with the Europe*Star satellite," Rossignol explained.

Rossignol did not say which of the four satellites the Ariane 5 is due to launch was causing the delay. The heavy-lift rocket, making its seventh flight, is slated to carry PanAmSat's PAS-1R communications spacecraft, the Phase 3D amateur radio satellite and a pair of small British military research probes. A new launch date has not been set but the flight is expected to occur sometime in mid-November.

The Europe*Star craft will be used to provide high-rate communication links between Europe, South Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India and Southeast Asia.

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

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.