Just a few hours ago, Arianespace racked up their first heavy launch of the year, sending a dual-payload Ariane V with two geosynchronous commsats aboard from Kourou, French Guiana. The payloads are Sky Brasil-1, to serve customers in Brazil, and Telkom 3S, to serve customers in Indonesia. This was the ninety-first Ariane V mission overall. The rocket has enjoyed a strong record, with only two failures and two partial failures out of 91 flights, and it has had no failures of any kind in the last seventy-six missions.
Next flight of 2017 will be a PSLV from India, to launch in just a few hours with a big mapping satellite and a veritable horde of 103 smallsats. I will write about it tomorrow. 😉
Soyuz has just completed its first launch to geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kourou, French Guiana, carrying Hispasat 36W-1, a commercial Spanish commsat, to space. Normally, Ariane V would have been used for the flight, but the mighty rocket is booked out for a few years; Hispasat got to fly much sooner by selecting the Soyuz.
Other than the very distinctive conical shape of the rocket with its unique booster configuration, Soyuz has another feature distinguishing it from the other boosters that fly from Kourou — its bright orange plume. All the other vehicles that fly from here include solid propellant — Vega’s first three stages are purely solid, and Ariane V features a pair of large solid rocket motors. But Soyuz is all kerosene and LOX, so the plume is bright and short.
There is one intriguing difference to Soyuz operations out of Kourou — although the rocket is assembled horizontally, per its design, the payload is integrated vertically, per normal Arianespace operations and per the requirements of the payload. (Russia has always favored horizontal integration, but the rest of the world generally favors vertical integration. As with every engineering decision, there are trade-offs, and neither choice is fundamentally “right”.) So the rocket rolls to the pad without a payload, and then the payload is added. Arianespace released this lovely video showing the highlights of vehicle assembly:
It’s been busy, so I missed posting this yesterday. 😉 This launch used Arianespace’s lightweight launcher, the all-solid-propellant Vega:
Meanwhile, India is presently in the final stages of PSLV launch preparations; I hope to post a successful launch video for them as well sometime tomorrow. (If all goes well, that rocket will fly in just over an hour from now.)
Ariane V completed another flawless mission from Kourou, French Guiana yesterday, placing into orbit Sky Muster 2 for Australia and GSAT 18 for India. Both are geosynchronous commsats, the mainstay of Ariane V’s customer base.
And also yesterday, Blue Origin completed the fifth flight of their New Shepherd reusable suborbital rocket. This flight did continue to test the rocket, but that wasn’t the main focus. This mission was an inflight abort test. The booster did not simulate an emergency; after the spacecraft separated, it continued merrily along its way (albeit at lower thrust to compensate for the loss of mass) and returned neatly to Earth on its own. The escape looked a bit, well, “blarg-tastic” is the word that came to mind for me, as it yawed around dramatically. I would bet that Blue Origin will be studying the data from sensors inside to make sure G-loads didn’t exceed human tolerance; the point of an escape isn’t to be comfy, but to be survivable. Nevertheless, this fifth flight is expected to be the final flight for this particular vehicle.
The venerable and highly reliable Ariane V roared into space from Kourou, French Guiana yesterday, carrying two Intelsat payloads to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Intelsat 33e and Intelsat 36 were released into the desired trajectories on the first double-launch for one of the world’s oldest commercial satellite operators. These new satellites are in Intelsat’s “Epic” class and are intended to expand Intelsat’s market from traditional satellite users (a market they presently dominate in the Western Hemisphere) to mobile users (a market presently dominated by Inmarsat). Epic spacecraft have cutting-edge capabilities for rapid adjustments in the bandwidth available depending on need, making them far more capable than their predecessors in the market.
As far as Arianespace is concerned, it was one more successful launch:
Two big spaceflight events today. 😉 Ariane V blasted off from Kourou in French Guiana, carrying EchoStar 18 andBRISat. Combined, they represented the heaviest payload ever launched by the mighty Ariane V. EchoStar 15 will serve DISH television customers in the United States, while BRISat will provide secure satellite communication links for financial transactions in Indonesia, a nation distributed across many islands and therefore heavily dependent on radio communications.
And on the other side of the planet, Soyuz TMA-19M descended to the plains of Kazakhstan. The descent was nominal. The three crew are in good health: Yuri Malenchenko (Ukrainian, flying for Russia), Tim Kopra (United States) and Tim Peake (United Kingdom, flying for ESA). It’s kind of a noisy replay; I assume that’s noise from the recovery helicopter that is carrying the camera. You can jump to 5:20 if you want to see the soft landing thrusters fire.
The European satellite navigation constellation, Galileo, just grew by two spacecraft: Galileo FM-10 & FM-11 were placed into orbit by a Soyuz rocket operated by Arianespace from Kourou in French Guiana today. The two spacecraft will undergo a commissioning period, during which they will be put through a series of tests, before they are declared operational.