Arianespace announces busy 2016 launch manifest
European commercial launch provider Arianespace announced this week that the company has a busy launch manifest for 2016 – targeting up to 11 missions this year. The Courcouronnes, France- based company plans to conduct a record number of eight flights of its workhorse Ariane 5 heavy-lift launch vehicle, two launches of the lightweight Vega rocket, and one using their medium-lift Soyuz booster.
The first two Ariane 5 missions in 2016, tasked with delivering the Intelsat 29e (Jan. 27) and Eutelsat 65 West A (March) satellites to orbit, are single launches, carrying only one spacecraft each. Other Ariane 5 flights will use the booster’s highly efficient dual-passenger capability.
“As co-passengers for Ariane 5 were not available during the first quarter, Arianespace opened a fully transparent dialog with our customers to find solutions that meet their calendar timing requirements without comprising the balance of Ariane 5 operations. The result is a win-win situation that furthers our relationships with the clients,” Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace told a press conference in Paris, France, on Jan. 5.
The year-opening Intelsat 29e mission, designated Flight VA228, like all Ariane 5 flights, will be launched from the Ariane Launch Area 3 located at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
This heavy launch vehicle (the Ariane 5 has a mass of some 1,713,000 lbs / 777,000 kg) will also be used to orbit four Galileo navigation satellites for the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA) in Oct. 2016.
Earlier in the year, in May, Ariane 5 is slated to loft two communications satellites – EchoStar 18 for the U.S. EchoStar Corporation and BRIsat for Indonesian Bank BRI. One customer for an Ariane flight – has yet to be disclosed.
Vega launches, meanwhile, are planned to send military and commercial payloads to a Sun-synchronous orbit. In July, the lightweight vehicle will launch the PeruSat-1 military spacecraft for the Peruvian government, along with Skysat satellites for Google + Skybox Imaging.
The second Vega mission is scheduled for December when this booster will orbit the Göktürk-1A reconnaissance satellite for the Turkish Armed Forces. These two launches will be performed from the Ariane Launch Area 1, also located in Kourou.
Arianespace’s only Soyuz launch this year is currently scheduled to take place on April 14. A Soyuz-2.1a is expected to lift off from the Soyuz Launch Complex in Sinnamary, French Guiana, on a mission to deliver Europe’s Earth-observing Sentinel-1B satellite for the Copernicus Programme.
The company has disclosed that this year should see the creation of a new internal organization, designed to bolster project management within Arianespace. It is also meant to implement new corporate governance resulting from changes in its shareholding structure.
2016 will be also crucial for Arianespace’s long-term plans. The company is preparing for the future commercial introduction of the Ariane 6 and Vega-C launchers. These new vehicles are expected to lower launch costs, increase flexibility and create an enhanced response for the creation of spacecraft constellations. It will also work to ramp up the demand for increased space-based connectivity and the development of all-electric satellites. Arianespace will begin commercial offers with Ariane 6 and Vega-C after their Program Implementation Review, which is expected this autumn.
“These two extremely ambitious launchers are Europe’s best answer to growing competition, responding to the requirements of both our institutional customers and international commercial clients,” Israël said.
Arianespace is the world’s first commercial launch service provider. It is perceived as the world’s leading satellite launch company. In 2015, it carried out 12 successful launches: six Ariane 5 flights, along with three by Soyuz and three by Vega. The successful streak boosted Arianespace’s sales to more than 1.4 billion euros.
“Arianespace is very proud of the operational and business results achieved in 2015 by our highly professional and resolutely customer-centric staff. We set new records in 2015, with 12 launches by the Arianespace family from the Guiana Space Center, sales exceeding 1.4 billion euros and orders booked worth 2.5 billion euros,” Israël noted.
Arianespace’s plans for the coming years include the first launch of the Vega-C rocket in 2018 and Ariane 6 in 2020. In his New Year’s briefing, Israël also announced that his company has signed a launch services contract for two Comsat NG new-generation military communications satellites. These are slated to be delivered to orbit between 2020 and 2022. Another contract was inked with the French space agency, CNES, for the new system of CERES signals intelligence satellites, expected to be completed by 2020.
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