Friday, May 21, 2010

Fiftith Ariane 5 Successfully Launches Satellites

The European Space Agency's Ariane 5 rocket marked her fiftieth flight today successfully delivering two satellites into earth orbit.

Carrying dual satellites -- ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2 -- this first Ariane flight of 2010 was delayed nearly two months due to technical issues at the pad during it's first launch attempt in March.

A quality review board investigated the Ariane 5 launch campaign for this flight to learn why the issues occurred and to ensure a clean launch vehicle.

As the countdown neared zero, the core stage's Vulcain 2 engine ignited, and at 6:01:07 pm EDT (2201 GMT) the twin rocket boosters ignited launching Ariane 5 on it's golden flight into a dark sky from Kourou, South America.

Cutting through a few cloud layers, Ariane headed out over the central Atlantic waters as it headed toward the western coast of Africa.

The twin boosters then were commanded 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 climbed higher and traveled faster above the atmosphere.

The core booster then arrived minutes later into it's planned initial elliptical orbit of 154 x 22,350 miles high.

The ASTRA 3B traveled into space riding a top of the COMSATBw-2 inside the vertical payload fairing.

Astra was the first to leave the nest as it separated from the upper stage at 6:28 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 13.2 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 as it operates with it's twin COMSATBw-1 -- which launched last October.

The German satellite was the 34th military payload launched by an Ariane rocket, according to Arianespace.

This Ariane flight was the first of seven planned for 2010. The next Ariane 5 is scheduled for mid-June with one comsat and one weather satellite.

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