PARIS — Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket on March 22 launched telecommunications satellites for two European satellite fleet operators — one including a hosted navigation payload for the European Union — in its 59th consecutive launch success.
Operating from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport on the northeast coast of South America, the Arianespace launch consortium’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket placed SES’s Astra 5B and Hispasat’s Amazonas 4A satellites into geostationary transfer orbit.
Both owners said their satellites were in good health in orbit and would make their way to final operating position in the coming weeks.
Astra 5B, built by Airbus Defence and Space as the last in a four-satellite order dating from 2009, has 40 Ku-band transponders and will be operated at Luxembourg-based SES’s 31.5 degrees east orbital position. The payload will provide replacement capacity for SES at that location but includes the equivalent of 21 transponders to be used to expand SES’s services offer there.
Astra 5B, which weighed 5,724 kilograms at launch and is designed to provide 13 kilowatts of power to its payload at the end of its 15-year contractual service life, carries six Ka-band transponders as part of SES’s consumer and corporate broadband service in Europe.
Also riding on the satellite is an L-band payload owned by the European Commission to provide GPS signal-verification services over Europe and parts of Africa. Once Europe’s constellation of Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites is operational, Astra 5B will perform the same signal-verification services for Galileo as well.
Adding L-band payloads on geostationary satellites at 36,000 kilometers over the equator to monitor the accuracy of signals from the U.S. GPS satellites in medium Earth orbit is now a worldwide practice. The United States, Europe, India, Russia, China and Japan have similar networks in place.
The SES-5 satellite, operating at 5 degrees east, carries a similar payload for the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service. It was launched in 2012.
Meanwhile, Hispasat’s Amazonas 4A will operate at an unspecified orbital slot to provide television coverage in Latin America. Madrid-based Hispasat now generates more than half its revenue from Latin America and is seeking to grow there. Hispasat’s Amazonas 1 satellite is at 36 degrees west, while Amazonas 2 and Amazonas 3 are at 61 degrees west.
Amazonas 4A, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., will be operated by Hispamar Satelites of Brazil. The satellite, which weighed 2,938 kilograms at launch, carries 24 Ku-band transponders and is designed to provide 5 kilowatts of power to its payload after 15 years.
In a March 25 response to SpaceNews inquiries, Hispasat said it expects to decide on a final orbital slot for Amazonas 4A in the coming weeks. “It is a strategic decision for which we have several options at this moment,” the company said.
Orbital is also building Hispasat’s Amazonas 4B satellite, which is scheduled to launch in 2016 and operate at 61 degrees west.
Hispasat’s strategy in Latin America has been complicated in recent months by the purchase, by satellite operator Eutelsat of Paris, of Mexico’s Satmex fleet operator. The purchase gives Eutelsat a major foothold in Latin America, which in the past few years has been one of the fastest-growing regional satellite markets.
Eutelsat owns 33.7 percent of Hispasat’s equity — Hispasat’s majority owner, Abertis of Spain, still owns about 5 percent of Eutelsat — and the two companies appear now to have a relationship that is more competitive than cooperative.
Hispasat Chairwoman Elena Pisonero Ruiz said Hispasat intends further growth in Latin America and is “working on opportunities to be a global player. Spain is back.”
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