Ariane rocket launches Skynet and Turksat spacecraft

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A mockup of an Ariane 5 rocket

An Ariane 5ECA rocket has successfully placed two communications satellites into Geosynchronous transfer orbit. Liftoff, from ELA-3 at the Guiana Space Centre occurred at 22:05:02 GMT this evening. The satellites launched were Skynet 5C, which will be used to relay secure communications for the British armed forces, and Turksat 3A, which will be used for commercial communications. Paradigm Secure Communications will operate Skynet 5C on behalf of Britain's Ministry of Defence, whilst Turksat 3A will be operated by Turksat, an organisation based in Turkey.

The launch was conducted by French company Arianespace. It was originally scheduled to occur in May, but was delayed when an incorrect guidance programme was found to have been installed on the rocket. It is believed that several commands intended for use by the Ariane 5ES, a variant of the Ariane 5 used to launch spacecraft such as the Automated Transfer Vehicle, had been installed by mistake.

Skynet 5C and Turksat 3A separated from the carrier rocket 26 and 31 minutes after launch respectively, into a Geosynchronous transfer orbit. They will perform burns of onboard engines to raise the perigees of their orbits, and inject into Geosynchronous orbits, approximately 35,000 kilometres above the equator. Turksat 3A, which was constructed by Thales Alenia Space, will be positioned at a longitude of 42°E, where it will replace the older Turksat 1C satellite. Skynet 5C, which was originally constructed as a backup spacecraft, will be placed at 17.8°W. It was built by EADS Astrium.

This is the 30th orbital launch of 2008, and the third to be conducted by an Ariane 5 rocket. Overall, it is the 39th flight of an Ariane 5, and the 14th flight of the ECA variant. It is also the 25th successful launch of an Ariane rocket. The flight designation for the launch was V184, and the serial number of the rocket used was 540. The next Ariane 5 launch will occur in early July, with the Badr 6 and ProtoStar-1 satellites.

Speaking before launch, Arianespace Chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall described the mission as a "very important launch for us". Following launch, he said that he was "very happy to share this success with you", and that Arianespace could make a "guarantee to Europe's governments of their assured access to space". He commented on the fact that this was Arianespace's 25th consecutive successful launch, saying that this achievement "truly demands respect".

Patrick Wood, the Skynet 5C programme director at Paradigm Secure Communications described the launch as "another great achievement, and another major milestone", and that "we are extremely proud of it". Jean-Marie Robert, the manager of satellite programmes at Thales Alenia Space said that his company was "proud to have contributed" to the Turksat programme. Binali Yildirim, Turkey's Minister of Transportation, made a speech via telephone, thanking Arianespace for the launch.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.