Ariane 5’s 62nd Straight Success Puts Argentina in Satcom Driver’s Seat
PARIS — Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket on Oct. 16 placed two telecommunications satellites into orbit in the vehicle’s 62nd consecutive success, a launch that brought Argentina to the table of nations that have built — and operated — their own geostationary-orbiting spacecraft.
Argentine officials said after the launch that their nation is determined not to repeat its previous experience in which non-Argentine commercial interests nearly caused the nation to lose access to the geostationary belt in which most telecommunications satellites operate.
Launched from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America, the Ariane 5 ECA vehicle completed the fifth of a planned six launch campaigns for 2014.
Sitting in the vehicle’s upper berth was the30/DLA-1 satellite owned by Intelsat of Luxembourg and, following its recent move, McLean, Virginia. The satellite’s 72 Ku-band transponders will be used by DirecTV Latin America, a unit of Los Angeles-based DirecTV Group. DirecTV typically manages its own satellite programs but lacks Ku-band frequency access over Latin America, which accounts for the relationship with Intelsat.
Intelsat 30, built byof Palo Alto, California, weighed 6,300 kilograms at launch and is designed to provide 20.1 kilowatts of power to its payload, which includes 10 C-band transponders to be used by Intelsat to bolster its own Latin American portfolio.
The satellite will be co-located with Intelsat’s Galaxy C spacecraft at 95 degrees west.
Arsat-1 is Argentina’s flagship program that transforms the nation from a consumer of foreign satellite capacity into a nation that builds its own spacecraft — Arsat 2 is scheduled for launch aboard an Ariane 5 in 2015 — and operates them.
The state-owned INVAP company is Arsat-1’s prime contractor and both Arsat and INVAP assumed responsibility for managing the satellite as soon as it separated from the Ariane rocket. Arsat officials said it is the first time a Latin American nation has taken control of a satellite from the start.
The Arsat-1 payload was built byof France and Italy, which is also providing the Arsat-2 payload.
Arsat-1 weighed 2,985 kilograms at launch and is designed to provide 4.2 kilowatts of power to its payload of 24 Ku-band transponders.
Arsat, which like INVAP is state-owned, has said it is already working on designs for Arsat-3.
Arsat was created in 2006 by then-Argentine President Nestor Kirchner in the wake of what Argentine officials say was an unhappy experience with the privately owned NahuelSat, which operated a satellite and, according to Arsat, nearly caused Argentina to lose its rights to the geostationary arc as registered by the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency.
“During the 1990s, private foreign hands managed the orbital positions assigned to Argentina by the specialized United Nations agency,” Arsat Chief Executive Matias Bianchi said after the Arsat-1 launch. “Decisions were often made from a foreign perspective or mindset, and much of our [orbital-access] sovereignty was about to be lost.”
Arsat subsequently leased a satellite owned by fleet operatorof Luxembourg to help preserve the nation’s rights to the 71.8 degrees west orbital slot where Arsat-1 will operate.
Argentine officials have said that Arsat-1, which including the launch and ground infrastructure cost about $270 million, will usher in a series of domestic satellite programs while allowing the nation to save about $25 million per year now paid, in hard currency, to non-Argentine companies with satellites covering Latin America.
Argentine officials have said they would like to use their newly developed expertise to create a federation of nations in Latin America to maximize their investment in space technology. Venezuela has a satellite program, but it was purchased in China. Brazil has a major program as well, but purchases satellites in Europe and the United States.
Colombia is planning to procure an Earth observation satellite, and both Peru and Chile have done likewise, all buying European technology.
Current Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, who succeeded her husband in 2007 — he died in 2010 — has continued to support the Arsat program. She closely followed the launch and tweeted its success.
Norberto Berner, Argentina’s state secretary for communications, attended the launch and said his nation views Arsat-1 with as much national pride as was the case when Argentina developed its first nuclear power plants a half-century ago.