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Intelsat 39 and EDRS-C launched from French Guiana

An Ariane 5 rocket rises skyward to send two communications satellites into geostationary orbit. Photo Credit: Arianespace

An Ariane 5 rocket rises skyward to send two communications satellites into geostationary orbit. Photo Credit: Arianespace

KOUROU, FRENCH GUIANA — On Aug. 6, 2019 Arianespace’s third Ariane 5 ECA launch of 2019 lifted the VA249 mission off the pad located at Ariane Launch Complex Number 3 (ELA-3) in Kourou, French Guiana.

Carrying Intelsat 39 and EDRS-C, the launch vehicle left the pad with its payload which weighed in at an estimated 23,503 lbs (10,661 kg.) at 4:30 p.m. local time (19:30 UTC).

The final countdown began earlier this morning at t-minus 11 hours and 23 minutes before the scheduled liftoff time.

At four hours and 38 minutes prior to liftoff, the cryogenic main stage (EPC) was given the go ahead to be loaded with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. This was followed by the same command given to the second stage (ESC-A) a little over an hour later.

Ten minutes after that, at t-minus three hours and 18 minutes before flight, the chill down of the Vulcain main engine began. The final “go” was given at t-minus seven minutes. This was then followed by the fuel tanks being pressurized to “flight levels” at four minutes to liftoff. 

The vehicle switched to its own internal power just one minute prior to leaving Earth, with the onboard systems taking control of the count at just four seconds before launch.

The main engines of the EPC ignited at t-plus 1 second, this was followed by solid rocket booster ignition at t-plus 7.05 seconds. The vehicle took to the skies at t-plus 7.3 seconds, beginning its pitch motion about five seconds later. The vehicle’s roll program began at t-plus 17.05 seconds, with solid rocket booster (EAP) separation following at t-plus 2 minutes and 21 seconds.

The payload fairing was jettisoned at t-plus 3 minutes and 17 seconds, as the payload no longer needed protection from aerodynamic forces.

Main engine cutoff occurred at 8 minutes and 42 seconds after liftoff, followed by stage separation six seconds later. The second stage ignited at 8 minutes and 52 seconds after launch and continued the burn for about 17 minutes, bringing the payload to orbital injection at t-plus 25 minutes and 34 seconds. The primary mission was capped off by Intelsat 39 separation being initiated at t-plus 29 minutes and 9 seconds, followed by EDRS-C deployment at t-plus 33 minutes and 31 seconds.

The Intelsat 39 satellite is currently set to replace Intelsat 902 currently on orbit. It was manufactured by Maxar of Palo Alto, California. The satellite is set to enable internet and mobile network service providers to provide faster and more reliable connectivity. The satellite will feature C-and Ku-band capabilities set to reach areas in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Europe.

EDRS-C provides the second edition to the SpaceDataHighway, or the first optic-fiber network orbiting the earth.  The system is expected to transmit and transport a high volume of image data from earth-observation satellites. Created as a joint-partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, the SpaceDataHighway will be positioned in a geostationary orbit, and will collect data by observation satellites and relay them back to Earth in a real-time fashion. EDRS-C is the 132nd satellite launched by Arianspace for Airbus.

Today’s launch helped serve Arianespace as a morale-booster after the loss of the Falcon Eye-1 satellite which was lost as it was sent to orbit atop one of the company’s Vega rockets on July 10, 2019.




Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.

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