PARIS — Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket on Oct. 1 successfully placed two telecommunications satellites — one for the German military and one for commercial fleet operator Hispasat of Spain — into geostationary transfer orbit in the fifth of seven planned launches for the vehicle in 2009.

With $570 million in insurance coverage riding on the launch, it also was the year’s biggest single space-insurance event. The outcome — it was the 33rd consecutive success for the Ariane 5 — goes a long way toward assuring a profitable year for space-insurance underwriters.

Lifting off from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, the Ariane 5 placed Germany’s first military telecommunications satellite, COMSATBw-1, into orbit along with Hispasat’s Amazonas-2 commercial telecommunications satellite.

A second, identical COMSATBw-2 satellite is scheduled for launch in early 2010, a launch likely to be aboard Ariane 5 but with the new European version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket also a possibility, depending on when Soyuz begins operations from the European spaceport. The two-satellite Satcom Bw Stage 2 program was procured for Germany’s defense forces in a contract with Astrium subsidiary Astrium Services that combines a conventional hardware purchase with a service contract.

Astrium Services has overall responsibility for the program, including delivery of the satellites into orbit. The COMSATBw spacecraft were built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. They are Spacebus 3000B platforms providing 3.5 kilowatts of power each to a mixed SHF, UHF and Ku-band communications payload built by Tesat Spacecom of Backnang, Germany, which is owned by Astrium. COMSATBw-1 weighed about 2,400 kilograms at launch and is designed to operate for 15 years at 63 degrees east longitude.

The larger Amazonas-2 spacecraft, weighing 5,400 kilograms at launch, was built by Astrium Satellites for Hispasat of Madrid and will increase Hispasat’s coverage of North America and South America for Spanish- and Portuguese-language markets.

Amazonas-2 is an Astrium Eurostar 3000 platform that provides 12 kilowatts of power to a payload of 54 Ku-band and 10 C-band transponders. It is designed to operate for 15 years at its 61 degrees west orbital slot.


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.