Saturday, December 06, 2014

Europe's Ariane 5 launches satellites for DirecTV, India

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- European heavy lift launcher Ariane 5 rocketed from the edge of the Amazon Rainforest on Saturday and toward Earth orbit to deliver a pair of advanced telecommunications satellites.

The DirecTV 14 spacecraft was built for the broadcast television company, and will provide expanded high definition and ultra-HD services for customers across America's fifty United States and Puerto Rico.

The second payload deployed by Ariane is GSAT-16, built by the Indian Space Research Organization located in southern India. GSAT rode into space at the bottom of the two satellite stack and was deployed last. "From its orbital position at 55° East, its coverage zone includes the entire Indian sub-continent," ISRO confirmed today.

Inclement weather and high upper level winds over the French Guiana Spaceport scrubbed two separate launch attempts by Arianespace on Thursday and Friday. The commercial launch organization in partnership with the European Space Agency waited until Saturday morning to announce a third attempt.

As the Sun neared the scattered cloud laden western horizon, the Ariane 5 core main engine ignited as countdown clock's in launch control reached zero. Seven seconds later, the launcher's twin solid fueled boosters ignited producing 2.92 million pounds of thrust.

The 77th Ariane 5 mission leaped from its launch pad on time at 3:40:07 p.m. EST (5:40 p.m. local time) and rose straight up to begin its sixth and final Ariane flight of the year. Two on board computers then steered the launcher eastward out over the Atlantic waters en route to an exact keyhole in space to place its two payloads.

"Today’s heavy-lift success on Flight VA221 continues long relationships of trust between Arianespace and each of the mission’s two customers," Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said moments following the lift-off. "I want to express my deepest gratitude to DirecTV"... and GSAT.

A little over two minutes after lift-off, the twin boosters were separated from the core main stage shedding 600 tons of weight. A minute later, the protective fairing covering the two satellites was blown away and the two halves fell free from the vehicle reached the first traces of space.

Following the jettison of the core first stage, the Ariane's upper stage began a long engine burn to place the payloads into an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit.

DirecTV 14 was deployed first high above the eastern Pacific waters at 4:08 p.m. followed four minutes later by the GSAT-16 both north of Madagascar. Both spacecraft are expected to operate on orbit for over twelve years.

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