Ariane 5 completes another successful ascent to space
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: August 11, 2006
A heavy-lifting Ariane 5 rocket gave two communications satellites a smooth ride into space Friday in a launch originating from a European-run spaceport nestled in the South American jungle.
Liftoff of the Ariane 5 came at 2215 GMT (6:15 p.m. EDT) from the ELA-3 launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket rose away from South America's northeast coast and flew on an easterly path across the Atlantic Ocean before deploying its two payloads several minutes apart about a half-hour after launch.
Arianespace officials said the mission went off without a hitch, marking the 14th straight success for the Ariane 5 rocket since 2003. Friday's flight was also the 28th launch for the booster since debuting in 1996, and the third for the vehicle this year.
"Tonight's success is particularly exemplary, and perfectly illustrates why we have launched a total of 237 satellites during the past 26 years - which, by far, is a world record," said Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall shortly after the mission came to a conclusion.
The Ariane 5 also used a high-performance cryogenic upper stage with a heritage engine from the defunct Ariane 4 program. This version of the rocket - called the Ariane 5 ECA - allows the launcher to haul two large satellites into orbit on a single mission.
Shrouded inside the Ariane 5's stretched payload fairing were the JCSAT 10 commercial communications satellite for Japan and the Syracuse 3B military communications bird for the French defense ministry. Both payloads were placed in similar transfer orbits with an approximate high point of 22,000 miles.
Released first was JCSAT 10, which rested atop the Sylda 5 dual payload adapter during the ride to orbit. JCSAT 10 is beginning a mission for Japan's JSAT Corp., a leading satellite operator covering the Asia-Pacific region. Nine spacecraft are currently in JSAT's fleet providing communications services to customers spread across the Pacific Rim.
In the coming weeks, JCSAT 10 will fire its on-board propulsion system to guide itself into a circular geostationary orbit about 22,300 miles high, where its velocity will match the Earth's rotation. Officials currently plan to place the spacecraft in a slot along the Equator at 128 degrees East longitude, where its 30 Ku-band and 12 C-band transponders will reach users in a wide area stretching from Japan and Southeast Asia to Hawaii.
The almost 9,000-pound satellite was manufactured by Lockheed Martin for a planned 15-year mission. The new craft is designed to replace the aging JCSAT 3 platform launched in 1995. The satellite's responsibilities will include digital video broadcasting and data transmission services, including a critical role in JSAT's SKY PerfecTV! direct broadcasting program.
France's Syracuse 3B defense communications satellite was deployed from the upper stage almost six minutes later. Like JCSAT 10, it will also soon be maneuvered into geostationary orbit, but in a location where it will appear to hover above the Equator at 5 degrees West longitude.
Syracuse 3B is the second satellite in a cutting edge third-generation space-based communications network developed by the French defense ministry and industrial partners Alcatel Alenia Space and Thales Communications. Already in space is Syracuse 3A - launched in October 2005 aboard another Ariane 5 rocket.
The Syracuse system was pressed into service in 1985 and has since provided secure communications between the French government and deployed military units. Three incarnations of the program have been in service throughout the past 20 years, with the latest series bringing more capability, security, and operational flexibility than ever before.
The Syracuse 3 program carries an estimated total cost of 2 billion euros, or almost $2.6 billion using present currency conversion rates.
Built by Alcatel Alenia Space, Syracuse 3B carries a total of 15 channels split between the super high frequency and extremely high frequency bands. The 8,267-pound spacecraft is expected to work for up to 12 years linking senior French government and military leaders with soldiers in the field. Communications using the Syracuse 3 satellites are also heavily secured using anti-jamming technology.
In addition to voice and data relay transmissions, Syracuse 3B can also provide telephony services, military intranet networks, and videoconferencing to its users.
The Syracuse 3 program is also a crucial part of NATO efforts to procure communications space on national satellites to succeed the organization's current satellite fleet. Along with the United Kingdom's Skynet constellation and the Italian Sicral communications spacecraft, the Syracuse 3 system will offer NATO member states access to these services.
Thales Communications is responsible for the development of an extensive ground segment, which includes 600 networked receiving stations mounted on ships, aircraft, military vehicles, and other sites.
The next Ariane 5 launch is scheduled for September 19 with the American DirecTV 9S and Australian Optus D1 communications satellites. A Japanese technology demonstration mission will also fly into space aboard the Ariane 5 as a secondary payload.