KOUROU, French Guiana — Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket successfully placed two telecommunications satellites into orbit from Europe’s spaceport Oct. 29 in the sixth of a planned seven launches of the heavy-lift vehicle for 2009 and its 34th consecutive success.
The owners of both spacecraft said their hardware was healthy and sending signals from orbit.
The larger of the two satellites, the NSS-12 spacecraft owned by SES World Skies, weighed 5,625 kilograms at launch and carries 48 Ku-band and 40 C-band transponders. These will be
a broad swath of territory including India, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.
Steve Collar, SES World Skies senior vice president for market development, said before the launch that NSS-12 represents SES’s response to the loss of the NSS-8 spacecraft in
a spectacular on-pad failure of a Sea Launch rocket in January 2007.
Collar said none of the NSS-8 customers canceled their contracts with SES following the failure as Luxembourg-based SES gave assurances that it would quickly rebuild a replacement. NSS-12 will replace SES’s NSS-703 satellite but will provide 30 additional transponders for growth.
NSS-12 was built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., in what Collar said was near record time for a satellite of its
size and complexity.
The second satellite was the Thor 6 direct-broadcast television satellite owned by Telenor Satellite Broadcasting of Norway. The satellite weighed 3,050 kilograms at launch and carries 36 Ku-band transponders for Telenor’s core Nordic market and for
the company’s planned expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.
Cato Halsaa, chief executive of Telenor Satellite Broadcasting, said the company has reserved 16 of the satellite’s transponders to replace Telenor’s aging Thor 3 satellite and provide room to grow in the Nordic region, and 20 transponders to expand the company’s reach in Eastern Europe.
Halsaa has said Telenor hopes to lease Thor 3 to an operator that can use the satellite in inclined-orbit mode, meaning it is no longer stabilized on its north-south axis, thereby saving fuel and extending its in-orbit life. Telenor performed a similar operation after the launch of the Thor 5 satellite in 2008, when it leased the aging Thor 2 satellite to SES of Luxembourg.
An Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to make its seventh and final launch for 2009 around Dec. 9, when it will carry into polar low Earth orbit the French Defense Ministry’s Helios 2B optical and infrared reconnaissance satellite as a solo passenger. The launch would be the first time Ariane 5 has conducted seven missions in a single calendar year, although Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said the company has conducted nine Ariane 5 missions over a 12-month period.