Arianespace set to launch Argentinian and Australian satellites
Arianespace company is readying its Ariane 5 booster to launch a pair of telecommunications satellites for Argentina and Australia. Liftoff is scheduled to take place between 4:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. EDT (20:30 and 22:15 GMT) on Wednesday, Sept. 30, from the Ariane Launch Area 3 at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. (UPDATE: Successfully launched at 20:30 GMT.)
Payload integration activity has already moved into the Ariane 5’s Final Assembly Building, where both spacecraft, Australian Sky Muster and ARSAT-2 for Argentina, were readied for the lift-off. The launch readiness review will be conducted on Monday, Sept. 28, while the rocket’s rollout to the launch pad will take place one day later.
An integration milestone occurred last week with the encapsulation of Sky Muster and the SYLDA dispenser in Ariane 5’s payload fairing. This step prepares the upper component for installation on Arianespace’s workhorse launcher, positioning it atop ARSAT-2 once the lower passenger is installed on Ariane 5.
ARSAT-2 is a geostationary communications satellite operated by ARSAT telecommunications company and built by the Argentine company INVAP. The spacecraft is the second in a series of geostationary (GEO) satellites that gives Argentina its own space telecommunications system. ARSAT-2 will provide American countries with direct-to-home television (DTH), Internet access services for its reception on VSAT antennas, data transmission, and IP telephony.
Weighing about three metric tons, ARSAT-2 is the second GEO satellite to be built in Argentina. As with the ARSAT-1 satellite, the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) will be performed from ARSAT’s Benavídez Ground Station. It will be the second time that a Latin American country will run an operation of this kind.
The ARSAT-2 satellite is equipped with 26 Ku-Band transponders and 10 C-band transponders. It is designed to be operational for 15 years. It will be the second satellite orbited by Arianespace for the ARSAT company, following ARSAT-1’s successful launch on Oct. 16, 2014.
The spacecraft is a part of the Argentine Geostationary Telecommunications Satellite System. This program includes the design and manufacture of three ARSAT satellites, sending into orbit and operation, with the aim of increasing the telecommunications capacity of the country and guaranteeing the same level of connectivity quality to all its regions.
Weighing nearly 6.4 metric tons, Sky Muster is one of the world’s largest communications satellites. It will be operated by NBN, an Australian government-owned telecommunications corporation. The satellite was built by Space Systems Loral (SSL) of Palo Alto, California using the company’s well-renowned 1300 platform.
Sky Muster has 202 Ka-Band transponders and is planned to be functional for more than 15 years. It is a high-throughput broadband satellite that uses multiple spot beams in an advanced design.
The satellite designed to enable NBN to deliver broadband services to more than 200,000 rural and remote Australians. It will extend coverage to the entire country, including Norfolk, Christmas, Macquarie, and Cocos Islands.
“Many rural and remote Australians do not have access to a quality broadband service and continue to experience dial-up level speeds. Sky Muster will help deliver world-class broadband services to the bush – it will offer better opportunities for distance education online through [the] use of video-conferencing as well as improved access for specialist telehealth applications in the home,” said Julia Dickinson, NBN’s Managing Space Systems Architect.
The spacecraft, formerly known as NBN Co 1A, received the nickname Sky Muster in May 2015, which was selected from hundreds of entries as the winner of the nationwide competition for school children. The children were also asked to provide an original painting or drawing that illustrates how the NBN network will make Australia a better country. Six-year-old Bailey Brooks was the national winner; she provided the name for the spacecraft, and her drawing has been reproduced on the Ariane 5’s payload fairing.
The second NBN satellite – NBN Co 1B – is planned to be launched by Arianespace on a future mission. It will be the next step for the company in building a new, fast broadband network to reach all communities across Australia. NBN’s goal is to connect eight million homes and businesses by 2020.
Sky Muster and ARSAT-2 will be the 517th and 518th satellites to be launched by Arianespace. Both spacecraft will be put into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The flight will last for nearly 50 minutes. Sky Muster will be deployed first, 28 minutes after the launch. ARSAT-2’s separation will occur 32 minutes and 28 seconds into the mission. During the flight, the launcher’s attitude and trajectory are entirely controlled by the two onboard computers in the Ariane 5 vehicle equipment bay (VEB).
The launch campaign started in August 2015 when the satellites arrived in Kourou. They were fueled and integrated on the payload adapter in mid-September.
Ariane 5 in ECA configuration that will be used in the upcoming launch is the heavy-lift rocket for missions to GTO and usually carries two telecommunications satellite payloads. It is powered during the initial flight phase by a cryogenic core stage and two solid rocket boosters, followed by the use of a cryogenic upper stage for orbital injection of the payload.
The 180 ft. (54.8 m) tall ECA is an improved version of the Ariane 5 launcher, designed to deliver payloads, mainly communications satellites, weighing up to 10 metric tons. Although it has the same general architecture, some significant changes were made to the basic structure of the generic version to increase thrust and enable it to carry heavier payloads.
ECA is also used by institutional customers for non-GTO missions; for example, launching ESA’s Herschel and Plank scientific missions in 2008.
Wednesday’s mission is designated Flight VA226, signifying the 226th liftoff of an Ariane vehicle from the Kourou Spaceport. It will be the fifth Ariane 5 launch of 2015 (82nd Ariane 5 launch overall), and the ninth of 12 flights planned this year by Arianespace utilizing its family of the heavy-lift Ariane 5, the medium-lift Soyuz, and the lightweight Vega.
Arianespace’s next launch is scheduled for Nov. 5 when it is expected to send Arabsat 6B and GSAT-15 communications satellites into orbit.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.