The fiftieth Ariane 5 mission will carry ASTRA 3B & COMSATBw-2 satellites into space, one for the European region and a second for the German military.
Launch of the Ariane 5 on mission 550 is set for this evening at 5:59:07 pm EDT (6:59 pm local time) from launch complex 3 in Kourou, French Guiana in South America. There is a 49-minute launch window.
This flight will also mark the 194th flight of the Ariane family.
This will mark the second launch attempt for this mission following a technical issue on March 26th with a launcher subsystem hours prior to lift-off.
At launch, the core rocket's Vulcan 2 engine will come to life followed by the twin solid rocket boosters to propel the ASTRA 3B & COMSATBw-2 toward a high orbit.
The 165-foot tall and 1.71 million pound Ariane 5 rocket will head out over the southern Atlantic Ocean as it flies into an approaching night time terminator line and toward the western coast of Africa.
The twin boosters will command to separate 140 seconds into the ascent at an altitude of 43 miles high, followed by the release of the payload fairing a minute later as the vehicle climbs higher and travels faster above the atmosphere.
The ASTRA 3B will travel into space riding a top of the COMSATBw-2 inside the vertical payload fairing.Astra will be the first to leave the nest as it separates from the upper stage at 6:31 pm, followed by COMSATBw-2's release about six minutes later.
Astra 3B will operate in a geostationary orbit located at 23.5 degrees east, and will support audio and television broadcasts for 109 million homes across Europe via a collection of 52 active Ka-band transponders.
The satellite was built by Astrium, and is a product of the company's newly advanced Eurostar E3000 product line.
COMSATBw-2 is the second of a series of military defense satellites for the German Ministry of Defense.
From it's location at 63 degrees east above the equator, COMSATBw will cover and track other military movements from North America over toward the Middle East region, and is designed to operate through 2025. It will also provide secure military communications of it's regional military.
The German satellite will be the 34th military payload launched by an Ariane rocket, according to Arianespace.This Ariane flight will be the first of seven planned for 2010.
The next Ariane 5 is scheduled for around April 30 with one comsat and one weather satellite.