Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2002
Arianespace's heavy-lift Ariane 5 delivered another perfect performance tonight, placing the massive Envisat environmental satellite into a highly accurate orbit Sun-synchronous orbit.
The Ariane 5 lifted off from the Spaceport on the power of its Vulcain cryogenic main engine and two solid boosters. The vehicle's EPS upper stage was used for the final propulsion phase, climbing to the exact target altitude of 7,152.4 km. for release of the Envisat payload.
Today's flight was the 11th launch of an Ariane 5 and the eighth commercial mission under Arianespace management. The success kicks off a busy year for Ariane 5, with four other missions of the new-generation heavy-lift launcher targeted by Arianespace for 2002.
"With the deployment of Envisat tonight, Ariane 5 is once again fully operational, and this capable launcher gives us a lead over our competitors," declared Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Marie Luton. "Tonight's accomplishment is the result of the hard and dedicated work of a team that includes our industrial partners Astrium and EADS; the French CNES and German DLR space agencies; the European Space Agency, and Arianespace."
Envisat is the largest environmental platform ever built by Europe, and will provide an unprecedented look at the environment and the impact of human activity on our planet. The satellite was developed in a European Space Agency program, and it will be operated from ESA's European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.
An industry consortium of 50 companies led by Europe's Astrium produced the Envisat spacecraft.
Meeting the launch time…to the second The Envisat mission profile set a very specific launch time for tonight's flight: 10:07.59 p.m. at Kourou, and the countdown proceeded without interruption to allow ignition to occur at the exact moment desired.
Launch teams demonstrated the maturity of Ariane 5 by smoothly handling a problem that occurred the night before liftoff. The vehicle was transferred from its final assembly building during the morning of February 27, but was rolled back after an umbilical tube was became detached in the launch zone during the windy evening hours.
The umbilical was reinstalled during Ariane 5's rapid visit to the final assembly facility during the night. The vehicle rolled out once again this morning - moving along the 3.5-kilometer-long rail track leading to the launch zone. This activity occurred without interruption to the countdown.
Arianespace managers said this operation validated the capability of launch teams to handle such issues quickly, underscoring the maturity of the Ariane 5 launch system.
The heavy-lift launcher of reference
Flight 145 also demonstrated Ariane 5's ability to handle large, heavyweight satellites. The mission's 8,000-kg. Envisat polar platform - which is 10 meters tall - was easily accommodated under the launcher's 17-meter long payload fairing.
One of Ariane 5's primary missions will be carrying telecommunications satellites to geostationary transfer orbit, and the heavy-lift vehicle is the only operational commercial launcher with a proven payload capacity of more than 6,500 kg. to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
Arianespace is targeting the service entry later this year of an even more powerful, more competitive Ariane 5 capable of carrying 10 metric tons to GTO. The increased performance, combined with Ariane 5's standard 5-meter-wide payload fairing, will enable Arianespace to pair up many of the industry's satellites for cost-efficient dual launches.
A further growth is planned for 2006, when Ariane 5's GTO payload lift capability is boosted to 12 metric tons.
Ariane 5 operations at the Spaceport are backed by the commercial launch services industry's most modern infrastructure. The launch facility's new S5 payload processing complex allows satellites to be checked out, prepared and fueled within a single facility under the most stringent clean room conditions. Envisat was the first satellite to use the S5 complex for its complete preparation, fueling and pre-launch checkout procedure.
Arianespace's mission is set for the second half of March, using one of Arianespace's last remaining Ariane 4s. This mission will carry the dual satellite payload of JCSAT-8 for Japanese operator JSAT Corporation, and the Astra 3A spacecraft for Luxembourg-based operator SES.
After tonight's Envisat launch, the Arianespace backlog stands at 39 satellites to be launched, plus 9 ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) servicing spacecraft for the International Space Station.
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