Spaceflight Insider

Arianespace ready to launch ARABSAT-6B and GSAT-15 satellites

GSAT-15 is being positioned on the launch vehicle.

GSAT-15 is being positioned on the launch vehicle. Photo Credit: Arianespace

Arianespace is ready to launch its 10th mission this year on Tuesday, Nov. 10, using the company’s workhorse launcher – the Ariane 5. The rocket will lift off from launch complex No. 3 (ELA 3) at Europe’s spaceport, located in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission, designated VA227, will deliver the ARABSAT-6B and GSAT-15 satellites into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The 43-minute launch window opens at 4:34 p.m. EDT (21:34 GMT).

The Ariane 5 rocket passed its Launch Readiness Review on Friday, Nov. 6, which means the booster, as well as the satellites and the ground-based tracking network, are ready to support the launch.

Flight VA227’s upper component – consisting of Arabsat-6B, the Sylda dispenser system, and Ariane 5’s protective payload fairing – is lowered over GSAT-15 during activity in the Ariane 5 Final Assembly Building.

Flight VA227’s upper component – consisting of Arabsat-6B, the Sylda dispenser system, and Ariane 5’s protective payload fairing – is lowered over GSAT-15 during activity in the Ariane 5 Final Assembly Building. Photo Credit: Arianespace

The mission’s campaign started in late September, a few days before the arrival of GSAT-15 in Kourou. ARABSAT‑6B was shipped to French Guiana on Oct. 2. After the arrival, the satellite duo started a busy month of tests, fit checks and fueling operations ending with their integration to the payload adapter and encapsulation in the payload fairing. The rocket will be rolled out to the launch pad on Monday, Nov. 9.

If everything goes according to plan, Tuesday’s flight will last for approximately one hour and eight minutes. The launcher will be carrying a total payload of 9.8 metric tons. ARABSAT-6B will separate from the launch vehicle about 27 minutes after liftoff, whereas GSAT-15 will be deployed approximately 43 minutes into the flight. The rocket’s main stage will splash down off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean.

ARABSAT-6B, also known as BADR-7, was built by Airbus Defence and Space that provided the Eurostar E3000 platform and Thales Alenia Space (TAS), who is responsible for the payload delivery. With a spacecraft power of 11.5 kW and a design life of more than 15 years, ARABSAT-6B is the first sixth-generation satellite in the Arabsat company’s fleet.

“The upcoming launch has a special significance for Airbus Defence and Space. Not only is it the first sixth-generation Arabsat satellite in which we have incorporated the best of our expertise and technologies, but also the seventh Eurostar satellite we are delivering to Arabsat,” said François Auque, the head of Space Systems at Airbus.

ARABSAT-6B has a liftoff mass 5.8 tons metric and reaches a total of 28 feet (8.5 meters) in length when fully deployed in orbit. It will provide broadcast, broadband, and telecommunications services over the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. The satellite features 27 active transponders in Ku-band and 24 spot beams in Ka-band, in addition to Ka-band transponders for additional services.

The spacecraft will be joining the Saudi Arabian Arabsat’s BADR-network at the 26 degrees East hotspot. To date, 17 Arabsat satellites have been launched into space.

Founded in 1976, Arabsat is one of the world’s top satellite operators and is by far the leading satellite services provider in the Arab world.

GSAT-15 is India’s latest communication satellite. It will provide telecommunications services, as well as a dedicated navigation aid and emergency services for India. Weighing 3.1 metric tons at liftoff, GSAT-15 carries a total of 24 communication transponders in Ku-band as well as a GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) payload operating in L1 and L5 bands.

GSAT-15, built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is based on the I-3K (I-3000) bus. It is a standard bus for 3-ton class satellites; the ‘I’ in I-3K stands for INSAT, a group of communication satellites developed and launched by ISRO. The I-3K bus can supply DC power up to 6,500 watts, and is suitable for satellites with a lift-off mass in the range of 3–3.4 metric tons.

The launch of the VA-215 Ariane 5 in 2013. Arianespace has already launched five Ariane 5 rockets in 2015. Photo Credit: JM Guillon / Arianespace

The launch of the VA-215 Ariane 5 in 2013. Arianespace has already launched five Ariane 5 rockets in 2015. Photo Credit: JM Guillon / Arianespace

The satellite measures nearly 10 feet (3 meters) in length when its two solar arrays are deployed. The spacecraft is expected to be operational for 12 years. It will be located at 93.5 degrees East longitude.

GSAT-15 will be the 19th payload launched by Arianespace for ISRO. The GSAT satellites are developed by ISRO with an objective to make India self-reliant in broadcasting services.

ARABSAT-6B and GSAT-15 are the 519th and 520th satellites to be launched by Arianespace.

The Ariane 5 in the ECA configuration that will be used in this 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 feet (54.8 meters) 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 Planck scientific missions in 2008.

Tuesday’s mission will be the 227th liftoff of an Ariane vehicle from the Kourou Spaceport. It will be the sixth Ariane 5 launch of 2015 (the 83rd Ariane 5 launch overall), and the 10th 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 rockets.

 

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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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