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Ariane 5 returns to flight with launch of two satellites

An Ariane 5 lifts off from Kourou, French Guiana. Archive Photo Credit Arianespace

An Ariane 5 lifts off from Kourou, French Guiana. Archive Photo Credit Arianespace

The latest launch of an Ariane 5 rocket took place today at 21:34 UTC (5:34 p.m. EDT) from the company’s launch complex in French Guiana. The Ariane 5 lifted off from Guiana Space Center (GSG) carrying two satellites to orbit. Today’s flight saw the release of both the DSN-1/Superbird-8 satellite as well as the HYLAS 4 spacecraft.

The Ariane 5 ECA is currently the largest launch vehicle in the Arianespace fleet. It uses a cryogenic first stage, solid motor side boosters and a cryogenic second stage. Fueled by 175 tons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the 78 foot long first stage uses a Vulcain 2 engine capable of producing 310,000 pounds of force to propel the vehicle from the launch site. Assisting the first stage are two side boosters using solid fuel cores made from aluminum powder and ammonium perchlorate.

These side boosters are typically not recovered but provisions for parachute recovery are possible. In most cases, the boosters fall into the ocean in a similar fashion to that of the first stage. The second stage also uses cryogenic propellant (although a variant that uses hypergolic fuels is available) to boost the satellites to their transfer orbits. This stage measures some 15.46 feet (4.71 meters) in length and produces more than 15,000 pounds of thrust.

This flight marks a return to operations after an anomaly on the last Ariane 5.

The Superbird-8 is the 19th payload lofted by Arianespace for SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation. SKY is a provider of pay TV and satellite communications services in the Asia Pacific region. They have a large customer base in Japan with more than 3 million subscribers to their multi-channel content. Superbird-8 was built by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) using their DS2000 base platform.

The satellite with be stationed at 162 degrees East longitude where it will replace the Superbird-B2 satellite. Communications occur over high-performance Ku and Ka band transponders. DNS-1 is planned to be used by Japan’s Ministry of Defense. It is an X-band defense communications satellite. DSN-1 is not a dedicated satellite but instead a subsystem built into the Superbird-8.

HYLAS 4, meanwhile, is a Ka Band communications satellite designed to support customers across Eurpoe, Africa, and the Middle East. The HYLAS group of spacecraft provide broadband access for homes and businesses across its service area. HYLAS 4 is managed by Avanti Communications. The satellite, built by Orbital ATK, is the third Avanti and the 28th Orbital ATK-built spacecraft launched by Arianespace.

The last flight of an Ariane 5 experienced an anomaly during the ascent of the vehicle. Telemetry was lost for a brief moment just nine minutes into the flight. The anomaly initially led engineers to believe the flight and the two satellites (SES-14 and Al Yah 3) on board had been lost. Later it was determined that the satellites had indeed reached orbit but their trajectories were off somewhat. Both satellite operators determined that they could place their vehicles in the correct orbits by revising their orbit raising plans. These plan modifications utilized additional fuel, cutting the life expectancy of the spacecraft.

Investigations into the launch issue determined that human error allowed a trajectory deviation to slip through the verification process. Instead of setting the azimuth value to 70 degrees for this type of launch, engineers had inadvertently left the azimuth setting at 90 degrees. The deviation resulted in the loss of signal during the flight and the improper placement of the satellites. New policies have been put in place by Arianespace to avoid this issue in the future.

 

 

 

 

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Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

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