LES MENUIRES, France — Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket on Dec. 29 successfully placed two telecommunications satellites into orbit in a launch that, because it occurred before Jan. 1, will permit operator Arianespace to reduce its expected losses for 2010.
It was the sixth Ariane 5 liftoff for the year and the 41st consecutive success for the heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle, which is operated from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.
The two satellites placed into orbit are for Hispasat of Spain and KT Corp. of South Korea, both veteran fleet operators who will use the new satellites to replace existing in-orbit capacity and expand their businesses.
Hispasat 1E, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., will be operated at Hispasat’s 30 degrees west slot to provide television and other services from 53 Ku-band transponders. The satellite also carries a supplemental Ka-band payload for broadband links to fixed and mobile users. The satellite is capable of generating 13 kilowatts of power to the payload.
Hispasat 1E weighed 5,320 kilograms at launch. Hispasat officials hope to operate it for 18 years.
KT Corp.’s Koreasat-6, which will be renamed Mugunghwa-6 now that it is in orbit, was built by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy with a platform, or skeletal structure, provided by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.
Mugunghwa-6 weighed 2,850 kilograms at launch and is capable of providing 3.4 kilowatts of power to its payload of 30 Ku-band transponders. It is designed to operate for 15 years at KT’s 116 degrees east orbital slot.
With 41 consecutive launch successes, the Ariane 5 rocket is beyond having to prove itself to customers and insurance underwriters. But despite being able to order the rocket in batches from its industrial contractors — who are also its principal shareholders — the Arianespace launch consortium has been unable to generate consistent profit from the rocket.
Evry, France-based Arianespace is asking the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA) for a multiyear financial support program that will enable the company and its contractors to offset certain fixed costs at Ariane 5 production and launch preparation facilities. ESA governments are scheduled to take up the issue in March.
In part because of glitches in the Ariane 5 ground operations system in 2009 and early 2010, the company was unable to conduct the planned seven launches in 2010. Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall has said the company has incurred costs that, even with six flights in 2010, are likely to result in a loss for the year. Arianespace reported a small loss in 2009 as well.