Arianespace nabs two launch contracts, aims for 12 missions in 2017

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WASHINGTON — Two commercial satellite operators, Intelsat of Luxembourg and Japan-based Sky Perfect JSAT, have committed future spacecraft to launching on Ariane 5 rockets, European launch provider Arianespace said Jan. 4.

Arianespace will also seek to tie its record number of launches with 12 missions planned this year. The company first reached this cadence in 2015, and was on track to tie it again last year were it not for a shipping issue that delayed the launch of DSN-1, a Japanese X-band military communications satellite damaged en route Europe’s Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.

Intelsat’s new launch contract with Arianespace is for Intelsat-39, a C- and Ku-band satellite from manufacturer Space Systems Loral, designed with coverage over Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The launch is slated for the second half of 2018.

The Sky Perfect JSAT mission follows in 2019 for JCsat-17, an S-band satellite under construction at Lockheed Martin.

Arianespace’s 12 planned missions for 2017 consist of seven Ariane 5 launches, three Vega launches and two Europeanized Soyuz. That includes the second Ariane 5 launch to carry four Galileo navigation satellites on a single rocket, and the Inmarsat/Hellas-Sat joint-satellite Europasat/Hellas-Sat-3, which Inmarsat switched over from SpaceX due to continued slips in the launch schedule for Falcon Heavy.

For 2016, Arianespace reported 1.4 billion euros in annual revenue — matching the record set last year — and a backlog worth 5.2 billion euros. Much of this backlog, which consists of 55 launches, is thanks to OneWeb, which has 21 Soyuz missions booked. Arianespace said in a Jan. 4 statement that the first OneWeb launch could happen in the first half of 2018. The other 34 launches are spread across 31 customers.

Arianespace’s first mission of the year is the Soyuz launch of Hispasat-36W. Set for Jan. 27, the original launch was planned for 2013 but went off track due to manufacturing issues. OHB SE of Germany is the prime contractor for the satellite.