Preparations with passengers for Ariane 5's upcoming two flights are advancing in parallel at the Spaceport, underscoring the flexibility of this workhorse vehicle and highlighting the sustained pace of Arianespace's launch activity in 2013.
The Azerspace/Africasat-1a and Amazonas 3 telecommunications satellites for Ariane 5's next liftoff - scheduled February 7 on a mission to geostationary transfer orbit - are undergoing processing at the French Guiana launch site; while separate activity is in progress with the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which is to be placed in low Earth orbit on the following flight - planned in the spring - for servicing of the International Space Station.
These are the first two of Arianespace's six heavy-lift missions planned with Ariane 5 in 2013, designated Flights VA212 and VA213 to signify the 212th and 213th liftoffs of Ariane family vehicles from French Guiana since the European launcher's service entry in 1979.
Readying Flight VA212's two satellite passengers
In recent preparation activity for Flight VA212, Azerspace/Africasat-1a was fueled in the Spaceport's S5 processing center, while Amazonas 3 underwent a fit-check inside the launch site's separate S1B clean room building to validate its compatibility with the interface adapter for Ariane 5's payload "stack."
The fueled Azerspace/Africasat-1a satellite weighs approximately 3,250 kg. and is based on Orbital Sciences Corporation's STAR-2 platform. It was produced by the company under contract to the Republic of Azerbaijan's Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies for the country's national satellite operator, Azercosmos. Integrated and tested at Orbital's satellite manufacturing facility in Dulles, Virginia, Azerspace/Africasat-1a is outfitted with 36 active C- and Ku-band transponders to provide communications coverage for Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Europe and Africa from an orbital location of 46 deg. East longitude.
Amazonas 3 was built by Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California for the HISPASAT Group, and will operate from a 61o West longitude orbital slot. Using the SSL 1300 platform, this 6,200-kg. satellite has 33 Ku-band and 19 C-band transponders, along with 9 Ka-band spot beams, enabling telecommunications services that include direct-to-home television (DTH), corporate fixed and mobile telephone networks, and broadband capacity with coverage across the Americas, Europe, and North Africa.
The Automated Transfer Vehicle for Flight VA213 takes shape
The launch campaign for Arianespace's Flight VA213 has marked a major milestone, as the two major elements of its Automated Transfer Vehicle resupply spacecraft are now integrated in the Spaceport's S5 processing center. The 10.7-meter-tall ATV is composed of an Integrated Cargo Carrier section and the Service Module, enabling it to deliver experiment equipment, spare parts, food, air and water for the International Space Station's crew.
Flight VA213 will be Arianespace's fourth launch of an ATV, supporting a multi-year program managed by the European Space Agency. Prime contractor for the ATV is Astrium, which heads a European industry team.