Space | 02. August 2012

Ariane 5 with record GTO payload mass launches tonight

Exactly four weeks after the last launch, the next Ariane is, once again, on the launch platform! The final launch preparations are underway for what will be the fourth Ariane 5 launch (VA208) this year from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. The 'dress rehearsal' took place last Friday, and the Launch Readiness Review was completed successfully on Tuesday. Yesterday, the rocket was rolled out to the launch platform, so nothing stands in the way of tonight’s launch. The Ariane 5 launch window opens at 22:54 CEST and closes 57 minutes later at 23:51 CEST. Those interested can follow the launch on the 'live-stream' provided by Arianespace.

VA208 is a commercial mission for Arianespace. On board are two telecommunications satellites that will be placed in geostationary transfer orbits.

Intelsat 20 will replace the Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 10 satellites, which are co-located at 68.5 degrees east. From there, it will supply communications services to the Pacific region and Africa, as well as the Near and Middle East, using 28 C-band and 46 Ku-band transponders. Intelsat 20 is already the 53rd satellite bearing the name Intelsat to be launched by an Ariane rocket. The business relationship between Intelsat and Arianespace began very early on – the seventh Ariane flight carried Intelsat 507 into space in October 1983. Since then, on average two Intelsat satellites have been included in the payload of an Ariane flight every year.

The second payload on this flight is HYLAS 2 (Highly Adaptable Satellite) owned by the British company Avanti Communications. From a location at 33.5 degrees west, this satellite, weighing 3300 kilograms and equipped with 24 Ka-band transponders, is to extend the service provided by HYLAS 1, which is already in orbit, offering broadband data services to northern and southern Africa as well as to Europe and the Middle East. Avanti Communications has also worked closely with Ariane; the company’s first satellite, HYLAS 1, was also launched on board an Ariane rocket back in November 2010.

Mission VA208 is a new record for Ariane; the total payload mass of 10,181 kilograms (6100 kilograms for Intelsat 20, 3303 kilograms for HYLAS 2 and 778 kilograms for the SYLDA multiple-launch system and the payload adapters) is the largest mass ever transported into geostationary transfer orbit on board an Ariane launcher.