Ariane 5 rocket launches Superbird 7 and AMC-21 satellites

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A mockup of an Ariane 5 rocket.
Image: Mike Peel.

At 20:44 GMT on Thursday, an Ariane 5ECA rocket lifted off from ELA-3 (Launch Area 3) at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana, carrying the Superbird 7 and AMC-21 satellites for the Space Communications Corporation (SCC) of Japan and SES Americom respectively. Just under thirty minutes later, AMC-21 separated from the upper stage of the carrier rocket into a geostationary transfer orbit, marking the successful completion of the launch.

Superbird 7 was constructed by Mitsubishi, and will provide multimedia broadcasting to Japan, and other parts of Asia. It is the first commercial satellite to be built using the DS-2000 bus, although three DS-2000 satellites have already been launched for the Japanese Government. It will be placed in a geostationary orbit at a longitude of 144° East. It is the last satellite to be launched for SCC, prior to its planned merger into the SKY Perfect JSAT Group

AMC-21 will be used for television broadcasting to North America. It will be placed into a geosynchronous orbit with two degrees of inclination, at a longitude of 125° West. AMC-21 was constructed by Thales Alenia Space, based on a STAR-2 bus produced by Orbital Sciences Corporation. It will be operated by SES Americom, a United States based subsidiary of Luxembourgian company SES S.A.. It is the first SES satellite to be launched since the AMC-14 satellite was lost in a launch failure on a Proton rocket earlier. AMC-14 has since been sold to the US Government for technology development experiments including radar targeting.

The satellites were enclosed in a long payload fairing, which separated shortly after the rocket reached space, around three minutes and ten seconds after launch. A SYLDA-5 dual payload adapter was used, with Superbird 7 located in the upper position, and AMC-21 underneath. The launch was conducted by Arianespace, a French Launch Service Provider

Speaking after the launch, Jean-Yves Le Gall, the CEO of Arianespace said that he was "very happy to share this new success". Yukata Nagal, the Chief Executive of SCC, said that he was "very glad" that the launch was successful. Rick Starkovs, one of the Vice Presidents of SES said that he felt felt "very good" watching the successful launch.

This was the 39th launch to orbit so far this year, and the 38th to reach orbit. It is the fifth of seven planned Ariane 5 launches this year, and the 41st Ariane 5 launch overall. The next Ariane 5 is scheduled to launch in October, with the Hot Bird 9, NSS-9, and Spirale satellites.


Some information contained in this article was obtained from television, radio, or live webcast sources. Reporter's notes and the broadcast source details are available at the collaboration page.