Ariane 5 wraps up a successful year with another on-target mission
Ariane 5 completed a busy year of launch operations today with its fifth successful flight of 2006, orbiting two American built-satellite passengers for U.S. telecommunications operators.
The heavy-lift Ariane 5 lifted off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana right on time at 7:08 p.m. (22h08 GMT) and released its WildBlue-1 and AMC-18 payloads into geostationary transfer orbit duing a 32-minute mission.
With tonight's launch, Arianespace's workhorse Ariane 5 orbited a total of 10 primary satellites and one auxiliary passenger during 2006, lofting more than 38,000 metric tons of commercial payloads since January 1. In addition, the Starsem affiliate of Arianespace orbited one satellite this year using a Soyuz ST vehicle launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, and another Starsem Soyuz mission is planned for December 27.
These operations underscore the fact that Arianespace's flexible and comprehensive approach to commercial space launch operations – known by the slogan: "Service and Solutions" – is a reality, explained CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall. He also noted that today's flight was the 16th consecutive success for an Ariane 5.
"This was another remarkable year for Ariane 5, which launched more satellites in 2006 than all of our competitors combined," Le Gall said in comments at the Spaceport. "In addition, the 12 contracts we signed in 2006 represent commercial payloads will fill the equivalent of seven Ariane 5s...so we'll have many more evenings like this ahead of us."
During Ariane 5's year-ending mission, the WildBlue-1 satellite was deployed first, released by the launcher approximately 27 minutes into the flight. This was followed about five minutes later by the separation of AMC-18.
WildBlue-1 was produced in California by Space Systems/Loral, and will be used by Colorado-based WildBlue Communications for direct two-way wireless Internet access across the contiguous United States. This pioneering all-Ka-band satellite will provide services targeted specifically for homes and small offices in areas where terrestrial broadband access alternatives are either limited or unavailable.
When WildBlue-1 enters service at an orbital slot of 111 deg. West, the Colorado-based WildBlue Communications will be able triple the capacity for customers in the United States. The company initiated its Internet connectivity service by using relay capacity on Telesat's Anik F2 satellite – which was launched by an Ariane 5 in July 2004.
On today's flight, the AMC-18 satellite rode in the lower passenger slot on Ariane 5. Once it begins operation at 105 deg. West, it will expand the satellite fleet of New Jersey-based SES AMERICOM – a member of the SES GLOBAL satellite telecommunications group. SES AMERICOM distributes cable, TV and radio broadcasts, telecommunications services, business television and broadband data throughout the Americas and transoceanic regions.
"AMC-18 is the 25th satellite launched by Arianespace for SES GLOBAL, representing 22 years of cooperation," Arianespace's Le Gall added. "I would like to thank you very much for your confidence."
Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems built AMC-18 at its California production facility, and the spacecraft carries 24 C-band transponders.
The payload performance for Ariane 5's year-ending heavy-lift flight was a total of 7,886 kg. This includes the two satellite passengers (4,735 kg. for WildBlue-1, and 2,080 kg. for AMC-18), along with the mass of Ariane 5's SYLDA 5 dual-payload dispenser system, the satellite/launcher interface adapters and other associated hardware.
While tonight's mission was the final Ariane 5 flight of 2006, the remaining Arianespace-related launch is set for December 27, utilizing a Soyuz vehicle from Baikonur Cosmodrome to orbit Europe's COROT satellite. This space science mission will be performed under management of the Starsem affiliate, and COROT was booked by Arianespace specifically for launch on the medium-lift Soyuz.
Source: Arianespace Mission Updates