Spaceflight Now: Mission Report

Ariane 4 rocket lofts hefty satellite for Canada
Posted: November 22, 2000

The Ariane 4 with Anik F1 lifted off at 2356 GMT. Photo: Arianespace
The most powerful commercial communications satellite ever was hurled into space on Tuesday night, setting Arianespace cargo records and blazing the trail for future powerhouse satellites along the way.

Liftoff occurred right on time at 2356 GMT (6:56 p.m. EST) from the Guiana Space Center, the European spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana. It wrapped up a line-up of three launches from three sites around the world throughout the 25 hours preceding this flight.

This 101st flight of the Ariane 4 carried the Anik F1 spacecraft for operator Telesat Canada. Its 84 transponders will be used for various telecommunications services across North and South America from a perch at 107.3 degrees West longitude.

The satellite weighed over 10,000 pounds at launch, setting an Arianespace payload weight record for the Ariane 44L, the most powerful version of the workhorse rocket with four-liquid strap-on boosters.

Ariane 4 rocket ascends from the tower at the Guiana Space Center. Photo: Arianespace
Given its power and complexity, the Boeing-built communications satellite will take two months to achieve its circular geostationary orbit and complete a thorough checkout of onboard systems before entering service. Its design life is 15 years.

The Ariane 44L injected the craft into a preliminary elliptical geostationary orbit with an apogee, or high point, of 38,412 km, a perigee, or low point, of 225.5 km, and an inclination of 5.999 degrees. All of these parameters are well within the limits set.

After the 22-minute ride to orbit, Larry Boisvert, Telesat's president and CEO, thanked Arianespace for "a job very, very well done."

"Anik F1 is the ninth satellite we've built for Telesat Canada and at 17.5 kilowatts is our most powerful satellite ever," said Tig H. Krekel, president of Boeing Satellite Systems, the builder of Anik F1. "Our shared tradition of excellence began with the first Anik in 1972 and will continue for decades to come. Anik F1 and Anik F2, which is scheduled to launch in two years, are world leaders in satellite power and capacity. Anik F1 is 15 times more powerful than the Anik C and D satellites," he added. "And we continue to push that envelope."

Four first stage main engines and four liquid-fueled strap-on rocket boosters create a spectacular view in the nighttime sky. Photo: Arianespace
Arianespace has set a near-record pace during the last three months, since Ariane rockets began returning to action after a stand-down over the spring and summer due to the unavailability of payloads to carry.

"We must congratulate everyone involved, because from the August 17 to November 21 we performed seven launches, which is equal to one launch every two weeks," said Arianespace Chief Operating Officer Jacques Rossignol. "Our teams are doing extraordinary work."

The work for 2000 is not yet over. An Ariane 44LP is poised to launch on Flight 137 on December 8 to carry the Turkish Eurasiasat 1 into space. The year will wrap up with the launch of the Ariane 508 rocket carrying the American GE-8 communications satellite, the European Astra 2D direct-to-home TV broadcasting spacecraft, and the Japanese LDREX secondary payload into orbit.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Ariane 44L
Payload: Anik F1
Launch date: Nov. 21, 2000
Launch window: 2356-0026 GMT (6:56-7:26 p.m. EST)
Launch site: ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana