Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Experimental European satellite switches rockets

Posted: January 18, 2001

An artist impression of Artemis communicating with a low-Earth orbiting spacecraft. Photo: ESA
Europe has officially dropped a previous agreement with Japan to launch the Artemis experimental communications satellite aboard the unproven H-2A rocket in favor of using an Ariane 5 booster.

After repeated delays in the Japanese H-2A rocket's development, the European Space Agency found that it could wait no longer.

"The difficulties with the Japanese launcher meant we realistically had to look for an alternative in order not to delay the Artemis launch further. The spacecraft was originally built for launch on Ariane so it meant we could make the switch to an Ariane 5 without any design changes," said Gotthard Oppenhauser, the Artemis program manager at ESA.

Although the launch was supposed to occur in 2000 according to a non-updated ESA Artemis web site, the switch is pushing the launch back to at least mid- to late-summer.

The H-2A is an upgraded version of of Japanese's troubled H-2 rocket, which suffered several failures before it was finally cancelled. With several key safety and performance enhancements from the H-2, the basic version of the next-generation launch vehicle will feature a launch mass capability to geostationary transfer orbit that equals that of the American Atlas 3B rocket.

Riding along with Artemis during this summer's launch will be the Indian Insat 3C telecommunications satellite. Both will be delivered to a geostationary transfer orbit.

ESA says that the Artemis spacecraft is complete and is only waiting for transport to the Ariane 5's launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, located on the northeastern coast of South America.

During its decade-long lifetime, plans call for Artemis to test and experiment with new means of telecommunications and navigation. Artemis will also start the first European data-relay satellite system.

ESA has also defined three specific goals for Artemis. They include connectivity between mobile receivers, such as boats, cars, trucks, and trains, throughout Europe, northern Africa and some parts of the Atlantic Ocean. The test-bed will also provide navigation services and communications between satellites in orbit.

To sum up the Artemis mission, Oppenhauser said, "Artemis is going to have a major impact on the development of new telecommunications services over the next decade."

For a time last year, Boeing had hoped to launch Artmeis aboard the test flight of its Delta 3 rocket.