On 11 March 2006 an Ariane 5 ECA launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbits. Lift-off took place at 19:32 local time, 22:32 GMT/UTC. Both satellites were accurately delivered into the required orbits.

The payload satellites were SPAINSAT, the first Spanish satellite dedicated to secure government telecommunications, and HOT BIRD™ 7A, a radio and television broadcasting satellite serving Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.  

Flight timeline

The Ariane 5’s cryogenic, liquid fuelled, main engine was ignited first. Seven seconds later, the solid fuel rocket boosters were also fired, and a fraction of a second after that, the launch vehicle lifted off.

The solid boosters were jettisoned 2min:19sec after ignition and the fairing protecting the payload during the climb through the Earth’s atmosphere was discarded at 3min:14sec. The launcher’s main engine was shut down at 8min:53sec and the main cryogenic stage separated from the upper stage and its payload just over nine minutes into the flight.

A few seconds after main stage separation, the engine of the launcher’s cryogenic upper stage was ignited to continue the journey. The upper stage engine was shut down at 24min:45sec into the flight, at which point the launch vehicle was travelling at around 9400 metres per second (about 33850 km/h) and the conditions for geostationary transfer orbit injection had been achieved.

At 27min:04 sec, SPAINSAT separated from the launcher, followed by the Sylda 5 payload carrier at 30min:44sec. HOT BIRD™ 7A separated at 32min:05sec.

  Ariane 5 ECA

Ariane 5 ECA is the latest version of the Ariane 5 launcher. It is designed to place payloads weighing up to 9.6 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit. With its increased capacity, Ariane 5 ECA can handle dual launches of very large satellites.