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Arianespace to launch two communications satellites Thursday

Ariane 5 rocket lifts off From Kourou, French Guiana Arianespace image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Archive photo of Ariane 5 launch vehicle lifting off from Kourou, French Guiana. Photo Credit: Arianespace

European launch service provider Arianespace is gearing up to send the  EUTELSAT 8 West B and Intelsat 34 communications satellites to orbit on the company’s seventh mission this year. If everything goes as is currently planned, the flight, designated VA225, will see an Ariane 5 rocket lift off from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) at the European spaceport located in Kourou, French Guiana.

The current launch window for Aug. 20 will open at 4:10 p.m. EDT (20:10 GMT) and will last for nearly two hours, ending at 5:56 p.m. EDT (21:56 GMT).

Archive photo of Ariane 5 launch vehicle lifting off from Kourou, French Guiana. Photo Credit: Arianespace

There are currently two more Ariane 5 launches planned for 2015. Photo Credit: Arianespace

The Ariane 5 launcher will be carrying a total payload of approximately 10 metric tons. The mission objective is to put the two communications satellites into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Fitted with 40 active Ku-band transponders, EUTELSAT 8 West B will be positioned at 8° West, and will provide high-definition and ultra-high-definition direct TV broadcast services to North Africa and the Middle East. The satellite is also equipped with ten C-band transponders, allowing it to provide telecommunications services in Africa and the eastern part of South America.

Manufactured by Thales Alenia Space (TAS) using a Spacebus 4000 C4 platform, EUTELSAT 8 West B is the 143rd satellite built by TAS (and its predecessors) to be placed into orbit by Arianespace. The satellite, weighing 5.8 metric tons, is planned to be operational for 15 years. It will go into full commercial service in early October following checks to validate its performance on orbit.

EUTELSAT is the considered to be the leading satellite operator in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, and third worldwide in terms of revenues. It has entrusted its satellites to Arianespace for more than 30 years, starting with the launch of its first satellite, Eutelsat-1-F1, in June of 1983.

The second part of VA225’s payload, Intelsat 34, weighs in at 3.3 metric tons, and will provide services for Latin America media customers in the C-band and host a leading Brazilian DTH platform in the Ku-band. It will also provide Ku-band infrastructure for aeronautical and maritime service providers delivering mobility capabilities over North Atlantic routes. It will replace the Intelsat 805 and Galaxy 11 satellites.

Manufactured by Space Systems Loral (SSL) and using the SSL 1300 platform, Intelsat 34 is the 51st geostationary platform built by SSL (and its predecessors) to be placed into orbit by Arianespace. The satellite’s lifespan expected to be around 15 years.

Intelsat 34 uses SSL’s heritage electric propulsion system, the SPT-100, which is actively in use on 17 satellites with more than 40,000 hours of successful on-orbit operation.

“We look forward to the launch… and to providing expanded coverage in Latin America and the North Atlantic with Intelsat 34,” said Thierry Guillemin, EVP and Chief Technology Officer of Intelsat.

As the world’s leading provider of satellite services in terms of revenues and in-orbit capacity, Intelsat’s fleet of approximately 50 satellites delivers high performance connectivity solutions for media, fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure, enterprise, and government and military applications. Intelsat’s relationship with Arianespace began in October 1983 with the launch of Intelsat 507.

EUTELSAT 8 West B is positioned as the upper passenger on the Ariane 5, and will be released first during the flight, 28 minutes after lift-off. It will be followed by Intelsat 34’s deployment from the launcher’s lower payload position.  The mission’s duration is just under 42 minutes from the South American lift-off to the deployment of its two satellites. The main stage of the rocket, its role in the flight finished, will then fall back to Earth, off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean (in the Gulf of Guinea).

Intelsat 34 satellite in the Spaceport’s S5 payload preparation facility

Intelsat 34 satellite in the Spaceport’s S5 payload preparation facility. Photo Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

Both satellites arrived in Kourou in mid-July. They were transferred to the Final Assembly Building in French Guiana on Aug. 10 and encapsulated on the launcher two days later.

Last week, at the Spaceport’s Ariane 5 Final Assembly Building, both passengers were installed atop their launcher, completing the integration process.

The launch readiness review was completed on Tuesday, Aug. 18. The next day, the Ariane 5 rocket was rolled out to the Spaceport’s launch zone.

The Ariane 5, in its ECA configuration, that will be used in this launch is the heavy-lift version that is used for missions to GTO. It is powered during the initial flight phase by a cryogenic core stage and two solid rocket boosters, followed by the utilization 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 to orbit. 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.

EUTELSAT 8 West B and Intelsat 34 will be the 513th and 514th satellites launched by Arianespace respectively.

Thursday’s scheduled flight follows the three prior Ariane 5 launches in 2015: Flight VA224 on July 15 (with the Star One C4 and MSG-4 satellites), Flight VA223 on May 27 (carrying DirecTV-15 and SKY México-1), and Flight VA222 on April 26 (with THOR 7 and SICRAL 2).

Arianespace also has performed two light-lift Vega missions to date in 2015: Flight VV05 on June 22, and Feb. 11’s Flight VV04; along with one utilizing its medium-weight Soyuz vehicle (Flight VS11 on March 27).

The spaceport in French Guiana is busy with preparations for several of the company’s other upcoming missions. Another heavy-lift vehicle is taking shape for Flight VA226 at the launch site’s Launcher Integration Building for Ariane 5. The flight will place into orbit the NBN Co 1A satellite for Australia’s National Broadband Network and ARSAT-2 for Argentinean satellite operator ARSAT in September.

At separate locations, two European Galileo navigation satellites and their Soyuz launcher are being readied for Flight VS12 – scheduled in September as well from French Guiana – while elements are on-hand at the launch base for the Vega vehicle that will loft Europe’s LISA Pathfinder on a November mission to explore the universe.

Arianespace is planning 11-12 missions during 2015 with its Ariane 5, Soyuz, and Vega launcher family. Thursday’s liftoff will be the 225th Arianespace launch and the 81st launch of an Ariane 5 rocket.


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.

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