KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — With today’s Ariane 5 morning success from the Spaceport in French Guiana, Arianespace has now orbited a total of 26 satellites for Europe’s Galileo global navigation system with its launch vehicle family – further underscoring the company’s ability to meet the launch requirements of high-profile institutional customers.
This mission, designated Flight VA244 in Arianespace’s numbering system, was performed from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone, with Ariane 5 deploying its four passengers during a mission lasting approximately 3 hours, 56 minutes.
Liftoff occurred at the precise moment of launch – 8:25:01 a.m., local time in French Guiana – with the vehicle ascending through skies with only scattered clouds, providing a clear view of its initial trajectory, including separation of the two solid propellant boosters.
The four Galileo satellites weighed approximately 716 kg. each, and were deployed from a dispenser system that released the passengers in two sets during an interval of 20 minutes. The Ariane 5’s overall payload lift performance to medium Earth orbit (MEO) was set at 3,284 kg.
From Soyuz to Ariane 5 to Ariane 6
Flight VA244 was the third to utilize the workhorse Ariane 5 ES version – supplied by production prime contractor ArianeGroup – in lofting operational Galileo spacecraft. It followed previous missions that orbited four satellites each in 2016 and 2017; plus 14 others launched in pairs aboard the company’s Russian-built Soyuz vehicles during seven missions performed between 2011 and 2016.
“What an outstanding success for Europe with 12 Galileo satellites launched in less than three years by Ariane 5!” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël, who provided his post-flight comments from the Spaceport’s mission control center.
The European Commission’s Elżbieta Bieńkowska – who is Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs – thanked Arianespace and the other key players for Ariane 5’s latest success with Flight VA244, adding that Europe’s focus for the future will be on supporting the development of Arianespace’s two successor launchers: Ariane 6 and Vega C.
“Today’s launch brings the Galileo constellation to 26 satellites in orbit, giving it full worldwide coverage – a unique achievement for Europe,” she said. “Looking ahead, Arianespace is the European launch services provider of choice for the European Commission. And the European Union – through the Commission – will have around 30 launches to perform in the next several years. We support both Ariane 6 and Vega C; our collective priority now has to be delivering on Ariane 6 and Vega C, and closing the technological gap.”
Following today’s third and final Arianespace’s Galileo mission using an Ariane 5, future launches for the global navigation system will utilize the next-generation Ariane 6 – which is scheduled to begin providing services to Europe and worldwide customers in 2020. Two Galileo missions already have been assigned to the Ariane 6’s A62 version.
A milestone flight in Ariane 5’s operational career
This also marked the last utilization of an Ariane 5 ES version, equipped with a storable propellant upper stage. The Ariane 5 ES also was utilized on Arianespace missions that launched five European-built Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
As Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, Galileo is operated under civilian control, offering guaranteed high-precision positioning around the world. The Galileo program is funded and owned by the European Union. The European Commission has overall responsibility for the program, with Flight VA244 performed by Arianespace on behalf of the European Commission under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).
The European GNSS Agency (GSA) is responsible for operating the Galileo satellite navigation systems on behalf of the European Union. Galileo spacecraft are built by OHB System in Bremen, Germany, and the navigation payloads provided by Airbus-owned Surrey Satellite Technology in the United Kingdom.
Marco R. Fuchs, OHB System’s Chief Executive Officer, underscored his appreciation to Arianespace and Stéphane Israël for the latest launch achievement with Flight VA244. “Thanks to Arianespace for another flawless launch…Stéphane, great job!” Fuchs said. “This looks so easy, but it’s very difficult. Everyone who debates launchers and the future of European access to space should come here to the Spaceport to witness a launch. It changes the perspective and gives a real appreciation of what Europe has achieved and what we can do.”
The next missions for Arianespace
Flight VA244 marked the 99th liftoff of a heavy-lift Ariane 5 to date, and as such, set the stage for this vehicle’s milestone 100th mission on September 5 – carrying satellites at the service of Intelsat, SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation and Azercosmos.
It will follow Arianespace’s next mission on the 2018 schedule – Flight VV12 – which will utilize a light-lift Vega on August 21 to orbit the European Space Agency’s Aeolus “wind satellite.”
The pioneering Aeolus mission uses powerful laser technology that probes the lowermost 30 km. of Earth’s atmosphere to yield vertical profiles of the wind, as well as information on aerosols and clouds. By recording and monitoring the weather in different parts of the world, it will allow scientists to build complex models of the environment – which can then be used to help predict how that environment will behave in the future.
Also on Arianespace’s manifest is the launch of BepiColombo – currently targeted for October 18 – using an Ariane 5 to send a two-segment spacecraft on its way to the planet Mercury. This interplanetary mission, conducted in cooperation with Japan, will place the two components in orbit around Mercury, with one studying the surface and internal composition of the planet, and the other evaluating its magnetosphere.