ORLANDO – An Ariane 5 successfully launched two commercial communications satellites on July 30 during the rocket’s first flight in nearly a year, and the first of two missions before launching a NASA space telescope.
The Ariane 5 took off at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. The rocket’s top stage deployed the Star One D2 satellite 30 minutes after takeoff and the Eutelsat Quantum satellite six minutes later, both in geostationary transfer orbits.
Star One D2 is a satellite built by Maxar for the Brazilian operator Embratel Star One. The 6,190 kilogram satellite carries a payload of C, Ka, Ku and X-band transponders that will serve a variety of applications, from broadband service in Central and South America to government communications over the Atlantic. The spacecraft will operate 70 degrees west in GEO.
Eutelsat Quantum was built by Airbus Defense and Space for Eutelsat as part of a public-private partnership with the European Space Agency. The 3,461 kilogram satellite, based on a platform developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., is the first commercial satellite with a “fully flexible” software-defined payload, allowing its point beams to be reconfigured for respond to changing markets. Eutelsat will initially operate the 48 degree east satellite in GEO to provide Ku-band service in the Middle East and North Africa.
“I’m happy for my clients,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, during the webcast after the company confirmed the success of the mission. “It’s very important for Arianespace since it was the first Ariane 5 of the year. It was to be a success and tonight is a great success.
The launch was Ariane 5’s first since August 16, 2020, when the vehicle launched two communications satellites and Northrop Grumman’s Mission Expansion Vehicle 2. This was only the fourth Ariane 5 launch since early 2020, an unusually slow pace for a vehicle that had been a mainstay of the commercial launch market.
The Ariane 5 had effectively been grounded for months since this August 2020 launch. In May, Arianespace confirmed that the launch, as well as the previous one in February 2020, had undergone “a less than fully nominal separation” from the payload fairing. Neither of the payloads was damaged in either incident, but Arianespace postponed launches to investigate the issue with fairing maker Ruag.
At the time, Arianespace said the efforts of Ruag and Ariane 5’s first manufacturer, ArianeGroup, “remained positive”, but the companies did not comment further on the issue.
The matter has raised concerns due to the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope on Ariane 5. ESA is providing the $ 8.8 billion spacecraft launch as part of its contribution to the mission, in exchange for a share of observation time.
This is the first of two Ariane 5 launches before the much-publicized launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Science, attended the launch in French Guiana and met with officials from ESA and Arianespace to discuss preparations for the launch of JWST.
Neither NASA nor ESA have announced a launch date for JWST, beyond a launch readiness date of October 31. NASA officials have previously said they estimate JWST will launch around four months after this Ariane 5, based on a cadence of one Ariane 5 launch every two months, which would mean a launch. at the end of November at the earliest.