After 24 hours of delay caused by the strong wind, Arianespace managed to launch their Ariane 5 rocket with two communication satellites on atop. Mission marked as VA230 (it is 230th launch by Arianespace and 86th launch of launch vehicle from Ariane 5 family) started from ELA-3 launch site in Guiana Space Center.
Today Weather was more favorable than yesterday and at 20:18 GMT it was good enough, that launch was officially confirmed by Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel. Unfortunately launch was moved for 15 minutes from 20:30 GMT to 20:45 GMT, but again ground service teams needed little more time to prepare everything for 100%. Finally countdown was resumed at 21:32 GMT in second half of lasting for 70 minutes launch window. Mission was unique due the extremely heavy payload of 10730 kg to GTO-the heaviest payload delivered to space by Ariane 5 ECA ever. Mission scheduled for today had ultimate objective to deliver satellites to designated orbit with apogee at 35766 km, perigee at 250 km and inclination at 6°.
At T-2” arm was retracted and punctually at 21:39 GMT Ariane 5 ECA started to rise over ELA-3 launch site in French Guiana. At T+2’22” EPA boosters separated on altitude of 69 km, when rocket reached speed of over 7000 km/h. Rocket passed Karman’s line at T+3’05”; payload fairing was jettisoned at T+3’16” on altitude of 107 km. At T+7’33” Ariane 5 was already intercepted by ESA tracking station in Natal ,Brazil (first tracking station is placed near GSC in Galliot) during flight on altitude of 160 km with speed of 18000 km/h. MECO was performed at T+08’55” on altitude of 158 km with speed at 25000 km/h. Six seconds later first and second stage separated and at T+09’05” second stage fired its engine. At T+13’55” Ariane was intercepted by tracking station placed on island Ascension on Atlantic. After five minutes at T+18’43” next tracking station started to operate; ESA tracking station placed in Libreville in Gabon, Africa, spotted Ariane on its radars when rocket was on altitude of 180 km and was flying with speed of 30000 km/h. At T+25’21” main engine of second stage was cut off on altitude of 671 km. After that, second stage was continuing increasing altitude in ballistic flight with speed at 31000 km/h. At T+29’20” Echostar-18 was deployed on altitude of 1400 km; BRIsat separated after jettisoning additional cover protecting it during deployment of Echostar-18, at T+41′ on altitude of 4300 km.
Arianespace utilized during this mission their most advanced version of Ariane 5 called ECA. It is supported by two long for 31.6 m EAP solid fueled boosters, each powered by single MPS engines; each engine provides 5060 kN on sea level using 480 t of propellant. Rocket core is long for 54.8 m with diameter at 5.4 m with start mass at 780 t. Payload was covered with 17 m fairing which secures both satellites, Speltra/Sylda mechanism for dual launches and ACU payload adapter. First cryogenic stage is powered by upgraded with longer nozzle Vulcan-2 engine offering thrust at 1390 kN (in vacuum) for 540 seconds. It is fueled with LOX / LH2 propellant. Second cryogenic stage is powered by HM-7B engine fueled with 14 t of LOX / LH2, with thrust at 67 kN. Ariane 5 ECA was launched for the first time in 2002; maiden flight was only failure in the history of this model of Ariane 5 and rocket has performed until today 72 commercial flights.
Both satellites launched today were developed by Space System Loral for two different customers: Echostar and Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) with utilization of same SSL-1300 bus. In spite of fact using same satellite bus, these two spacecrafts were designed to meet different requirements. BRIsat was developed for Bank Rachyat as communication satellite equipped with 9 Ku and 36 C band transponders. Remaining on 150.5° East orbital slot it will cover with its range region where natural environment makes cable or 3G communications impossible: Indonesia region, ASEAN, West Australia, NE region of Asia. Satellite will provide communication between 1100 branches of Bank Rachyat and will improve quality of service offered by Bank Rachyat. Satellite weighs 3540 kg and its power consumption is at 10 kW. Bank Rachyat will utilize 18 transponders while rest will be probably offered commercially-in this way Bank Rachyat will become first bank with own satellite and first bank which offers satellite services commercially. Echostar-18 is typical broadcasting satellite designed to provide Direct Broadcast Services for American company DISH Network L.L.C. It will replace Echostar-10 on GEO 110° West slot for next 15 years. Satellite is equipped with 61 transponders operating in Ku band and it will cover with its range USA, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Alaska and Hawaii. It is equipped with two deployable solar arrays providing, along with onboard lithium batteries, power at 13 kW. It has following dimensions (with folded solar arrays): 8.3 m x 3.5 m x 2.9 m and weighs 6300 kg. It is equipped in three-axis stabilization based on reaction wheels (same system is used in BRIsat).