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Heaviest Ariane 5 Payload Orbits Without A Hitch

A picture-perfect liftoff. Image credit: Arianespace
by Staff Writers
Kourou, French Guyana (SPX) May 27, 2006
Arianespace's heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA launched on time and without difficulty late Saturday afternoon, delivering two large telecom satellites into geostationary transfer orbits. The rocket lifted off from its pad at Europe's Spaceport at the start of a 45 minute launch window at 6:09 p.m. local time.

It climbed through mostly cloudy skies and completed its mission 32 minutes later.

Despite weather conditions, Ariane 5 remained visible during its ascent, powered by its cryogenic main engine and two solid rocket boosters. It deployed Satmex 6 first, some 27 minutes into the flight, with Thaicom 5's separation following five minutes later.

Saturday's mission marked the second Ariane 5 ECA heavy-lift mission in 2006, and the 27th flight for the Ariane series. In just over nine months, Arianespace has used a total of six Ariane 5s to deliver 11 satellites into GTOs.

Ariane 5's flight also marked the fourth time Mexico's Satelites Mexicanos, SA de CV. has used Arianespace to orbit its communications satellites. In addition to Satmex 6, Arianespace launched Satmex 5 in December 1998, along with Solidaridad 1 and 2 in November 1993 and 1994, respectively.

The weight of Satmex 6 and Thaicom 5 totaled about 8,260 kilograms (18,175 pounds), a new record for Ariane 5.

With a liftoff mass of approximately 5,500 kilograms (12,100 pounds), Satmex 6 carries a mixed relay payload of 36 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders for telecommunications coverage over the continental United States, Mexico and South America. Space Systems/Loral built the spacecraft, which is based on the company's 1300 series satellite bus. Satmex 6 will operate from an orbital slot at 113 degrees west longitude.

Thaicom 5 was the fifth satellite carried by Arianespace for Shin Satellite Public Company Limited, Thailand's private telecommunications operator. Thaicom 1 was launched in 1993, and Arianespace orbited three subsequent spacecraft in the series during 1994, 1997 and 2005.

To be located in geostationary orbit above Earth at 78.5 degrees east longitude, the 2,760 kilogram (6,075 pound) Thaicom 5 will use its 14-ku band and 25 C-band transponders for direct TV and telecommunications coverage over Thailand and Southeast Asia, along with global coverage for Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. Alcatel Alenia Space built the satellite.

To date, Arianespace has launched more than 230 satellites since the company began its commercial launch services in 1984.

Satelites Mexicanos and Shin Satellite had shared a previous dual-satellite mission on an Ariane 4 launcher, said Jean-Yves Le Gall, Arianespace's chief executive officer.

"They already were fellow travelers in 1994 with Solidaridad 2 and Thaicom 2, when the combined weight of these two satellites was 3.8 metric tons (4.2 short tons)," Le Gall said.

Le Gall said 39 satellites remain in the company's launch backlog � of which seven were signed this year, plus four more Ariane 5 missions and three Soyuz flights, for a total of 14 satellites to be orbited in 2006.

Le Gall confirmed a July 17 liftoff date for a Soyuz mission with Arianespace affiliate Starsem, which will orbit the MetOp 1 metrological satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The next Ariane 5 ECA mission from Europe's Spaceport will be in August, carrying the French Syracuse 3B military telecom relay platform and the Japanese JCSAT-10 telecommunications spacecraft.

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Submerged Russian sub launches satellite
Moscow (AFP) May 26, 2006
Russia on Friday put into orbit a satellite carried by a converted ballistic missile launched from a submerged nuclear submarine, the Russian navy said.

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