JAKARTA, Indonesia — Arianespace launched a Soyuz rocket May 18 from Europe’s space center in French Guiana, carrying the electrically propelled SES-15 satellite to geostationary transfer orbit.
The mission is Arianespace’s second since territory-wide protests rocked the French territory in northeast South America for a month and a half, closing the Guiana Space Centre near Kourou in the process. SES-15 is the second of three missions previously slated for April, but pushed to May — a month during which Arianespace originally scheduled downtime for spaceport maintenance and thus had no missions — because of the protests.
To speed SES-15’s arrival at its desired location some 36,000 kilometers above the equator, its Soyuz launcher completed two burns of its Fregat upper stage over five hours in order to place the satellite just 5,000 kilometers shy of the geostationary arc. The Russian rocket’s extra effort shaved about a month off what would otherwise be a seven to eight month climb to geostationary orbit, according to Arianespace.
Built by Boeing, SES-15 is Luxembourg-based SES’s first all-electric satellite. The spacecraft has a mix of traditional and high-throughput Ku-band beams, covering North America and the Caribbean. Located at 129 degrees west, the satellite carries capacity for in-flight connectivity customers Global Eagle Entertainment, Gogo and Panasonic Avionics, along with maritime and VSAT customers.
The satellite also carries the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) hosted payload, designed to enhance GPS signals for aviation customers.
SES-15 is Arianespace’s second and final Soyuz launch of the year. The launcher’s next mission is the June 1 launch of ViaSat-2 and Eutelsat-172b, following which the company will have caught up on all launches delayed by French Guiana’s protests, assuming all goes according to plan. Arianespace is targeting 12 missions for 2017, the same amount planned before the French Guiana protests.