Ariane V has added to an already busy launch week with a successful liftoff, placing two geosynchronous commsats onto the geosynchronous transfer orbit. HellasSat 3/Inmarsat -S-EAN, a spacecraft jointly owned by Hellas Sat and Inmarsat, will provide S-band and Ku-band services to customers in Europe, the Mideast, and Africa. GSAT 17, a civilian commsat operated by the Indian Space Research Organization, will provide C-band services to customers in India, mainly television services. This was the 80th successful consecutive Ariane V launch.
It was a surprisingly busy week in spaceflight, with three launches from Asia. The first was a surprise launch of a Long March 4C from Taiyuan Launch Center in northern China on Thursday, placing a surveillance satellite into orbit. China ordinarily does not announce military launches. The payload is designated Yaogan 27.
Later that day, a GSLV Mark 2 rocket blasted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, India. This was the third all-domestic flight, with an Indian-built cryogenic upper stage, and the second succesful one. The payload was an Indian geosynchronous commsat, GSAT 6, and telemetry indicates it has deployed its solar arrays and is active. GSLV has had a difficult break-in period, but with back-to-back successes, ISRO is ready to declare the Mark 2 operational.
And then Proton rounded out the week from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, making a triumphant return to flight after the May 16 accident that destroyed a Mexican commsat. This flight was completely successful, delivering the Boeing-built Inmarsat 5 F3 spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit for Inmarsat of London. This will be the latest element in Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band mobile communications network.
Next rocket on deck is Monday’s Atlas V launch for the US Navy, and then after that is Wednesday’s scheduled manned Soyuz launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome to begin the forty-fourth Soyuz flight to the International Space station.
The venerable Proton heavy-lift workhorse completed another successful flight this morning, placing the Inmarsat 5-F2 satellite into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome:
Meanwhile, Iran unexpectedly placed a payload into orbit; their program is rather secretive, so they do not announce launches ahead of time like other nations. The 50 kg Fajr satellite was placed into orbit by the Safir rocket, Iran’s first successful orbital flight in three years, and their fourth overall. The USAF’s Space Surveillance Network reported an orbit of 139 miles by 285 miles, with an inclination of 55.5 degrees.