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Ariane leaves troubles behind with good launch

Posted: August 6, 2011

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Loaded with European and Japanese television broadcasting satellites, an Ariane 5 rocket blasted off in a ball of fire Saturday from the South American jungle and successfully deployed both payloads less than an hour later.

Credit: Arianespace
The 165-foot-tall rocket ignited its hydrogen-fueled main engine at 2252 GMT (6:52 p.m. EDT), then roared skyward seven seconds later when the launcher fired its twin solid rocket boosters. Liftoff occurred after dusk at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

Arianespace, the French company overseeing the launch, postponed the mission from July 1 to replace a hydrogen valve in the rocket's first stage. An anomaly with the valve scrubbed the flight's first launch attempt.

Unfavorable upper level winds delayed the launch about one hour Saturday.

After clearing the launch pad at the Guiana Space Center, a French-run spaceport on northeast coast of South America, the Ariane 5 turned east and crossed the Atlantic Ocean in about 20 minutes.

The rocket's second stage injected both payloads in the planned oval-shaped elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit, then released the satellites a few minutes later.

The 11,750-pound ASTRA 1N spacecraft, a satellite for European operator SES ASTRA, separated first about 27 minutes after liftoff. The Ariane 5 rocket's upper stage deployed Japan's 6,415-pound BSAT 3c/JCSAT 110R satellite 38 minutes into the flight.

Arianespace declared the launch a success, marking the Ariane's 45th straight flawless flight since 2002. The rocket's customers include commercial satellite operators, European goverments and institutions, and the International Space Station.

ASTRA 1N will be initially positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 28.2 degrees east longitude to serve the United Kingdom and Ireland. Then the satellite will move to a permanent location at 19.2 degrees east for the bulk of its 15-year service life.

From its second position, ASTRA 1N will provide direct-to-home digital and high-definition television broadcasting to Germany, France and Spain, according to SES ASTRA, the craft's operator based in Luxembourg.

The spacecraft's communications payload features 52 active Ku-band transponders. Its solar panels will stretch more than 130 feet across when fully extended in orbit.

Astrium manufactured the ASTRA 1N satellite based on the company's Eurostar E3000 spacecraft bus. The satellite is designed to generate at least 13 kilowatts of power at the end of its service life.

The BSAT 3c/JCSAT 110R satellite, a Japanese craft jointly owned by two companies, rode the Ariane 5 rocket in the lower position inside the vehicle's nose cone.

The spacecraft is designed for a 15-year tandem mission for two Japanese communications firms. Known as BSAT 3b and JCSAT 110R, the satellite was built by Lockheed Martin Corp. based on the A2011A platform.

Broadcasting Satellite System Corp., or B-SAT, and SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. will use the BSAT 3b/JCSAT 110R spacecraft on separate missions. Both companies are based in Tokyo.

B-SAT will use the spacecraft for a television broadcasting mission. B-SAT's largest shareholder is the Japanese broadcaster NHK.

The rest of the craft's capacity will be managed by SKY Perfect JSAT for other telecommunications services, including direct digital television programming.

The BSAT 3b/JCSAT 110R satellite is heading for an operational position in geosynchronous orbit along the equator at 110 degrees east longitude. It carries 24 Ku-band transponders split between its two operators.

Arianespace's next launch is set for early September with the Arabsat 5C and SES 2 commercial communications satellites.