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Ariane 5 delivers DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 to orbit
by Staff Writers
Kourou, French Guiana (ESA) Dec 07, 2014

illustration only

Telecommunications satellites for two long-standing Arianespace customers were launched today on the company's sixth Ariane 5 flight in 2014, extending the heavy-lift workhorse's string of consecutive successes to 63.

Delivering a total payload lift performance of approximately 10,200 kg., the mission - designated Flight VA221 in Arianespace's numbering system - lofted DIRECTV-14 for operator DIRECTV, along with the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) GSAT-16.

The DIRECTV-14 spacecraft was deployed first in the flight sequence, separating from Ariane 5 nearly 28 minutes after liftoff, followed four minutes later by its GSAT-16 co-passenger.

"This dual mission to geostationary transfer orbit is the very symbol of Arianespace's capacity to address the entire span of satellite communications operators," said Stephane Israel, the company's Chairman and CEO, in post-launch comments at the Spaceport.

The Arianespace mission diversity, which is geographic and cultural in nature, has been underscored throughout 2014 with five commercial launches performed for 10 customers evenly distributed across the globe - spanning the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Today's heavy-lift success on Flight VA221 continues long relationships of trust between Arianespace and each of the mission's two customers.

The company lofted DIRECTV's first satellite in 1993 (DIRECTV-1 using an Ariane 4 version), and in total has orbited seven spacecraft for this operator - including DIRECTV-14, which also represents the 46th SSL-built (Space Systems/Loral) payload to be launched by Arianespace.

"Arianespace and DIRECTV started their cooperation 21 years ago and met with many successes together," said Arianespace's Israel. "With three more DIRECTV satellites lining up in our order book, this win-win relationship will enable to meet with many more in the future."

Speaking in French, Phil Goswitz, DIRECTV's Senior Vice President - Space Systems and Communications, thanked Arianespace for a "superb launch," adding that Ariane 5 is "the best and most reliable launcher in the world."

During his follow-on comments in English, Goswitz noted that DIRECTV has always made history through its relationship with Arianespace, beginning with the orbiting of its first satellite in December 1993 on an Ariane 4 vehicle, and continuing with launches of DIRECTV's industry-leading relay platforms.

"Encore merci a nos partenaires chez Arianespace pour leur excellence et leurs magnifiques lancements!" he concluded in French.

To operate from an orbital location of 99 deg. West, DIRECTV-14 is a 20-kilowatt class Ka-band and reverse-band digital broadcast satellite that will deliver Ultra HD and other new consumer services for DIRECTV. It is based on the SSL 1300 spacecraft platform with a liftoff mass of approximately 6,300 kg., and is to provide service for users across the U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Puerto Rico.

ISRO has been an Arianespace customer for 33 years, beginning with the Ariane 1 launch of its APPLE spacecraft in 1981. Since then, 17 more of the Indian space agency's payloads have been launched - capped off with the successful deployment of GSAT-16 today.

"When referring to our friends of ISRO, I can think of no better word than 'faithful," added Israel. "In 33 years of cooperation, Arianespace has indeed orbited all Indian geostationary satellites which were not assigned to domestic vehicles."

Dr. S.K. Shivakumar, Director of the Indian Space Research Organisation's Satellite Centre (ISAC), congratulated Arianespace for today's launch and accurate injection into geostationary transfer orbit for GSAT-16, adding that ISRO will be back next year for GSAT-15's flight on another Ariane 5. "And we do hope in the years to come that many more opportunities to work together will exist for us."

With a liftoff mass estimated at 3,180 kg., GSAT-16 carries Ku- and C-band transponders to further augment communication services across India - operating from an orbital position of 55 deg. East.

Today's daytime launch with DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 was another on-target performance for Ariane 5. The launch vehicle's estimated orbital parameters at injection of its cryogenic upper stage were: - Perigee: 249.5 km. for a target of 249.5 km. - Apogee: 35,930 km. for a target of 35,925 km. - Inclination: 5.99 deg. for a target of 6.00 deg.

Flight VA221 also pushed Arianespace "over the top" for a record combined payload mass orbited from French Guiana in a single year: 74.3 tons - eclipsing the previous mark set by the company in 2012.

After congratulating DIRECTV and ISRO once again on today's mission success, Israel commented on the recent European Space Agency (ESA) Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, during which the ministers passed the "Resolution on Europe's access to space" covering development of the Ariane 6 launcher.

"European Member States have indeed heard the message sent by Arianespace on behalf of its customers," he said, acknowledging their decision to go ahead with the modular Ariane 6 program for a first flight targeted in 2020. "With its design-to-market approach and streamlined governance, Ariane 6 is the path to follow by Europe to keep its leading position in the field of commercial space transportation while guaranteeing to its governments their independent access to space."

Arianespace's next mission will be the December 18 flight of a medium-lift Soyuz from French Guiana, which will deploy the next four connectivity satellites for operator O3b Networks.

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