Ariane 5 Launches Largest Payload into Geostationary Transfer Orbit

Ariane 5 lifts off on Oct. 23, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace – ESA -CNES)
  • For its 11th launch of the year, the second using Ariane 5, Arianespace orbited two geostationary satellites: SES-17, a telecommunications satellite operated by SES, and SYRACUSE 4A, a telecommunications satellite developed for the French Ministry of the Armed Forces. Thales Alenia Space manufactured both.
  • For its 111th launch, Ariane 5 executed the highest performing flight by any launcher to geostationary transfer orbit: with two payloads on board, SES-17 and SYRACUSE 4A, with a total mass of 10264 kg, Ariane 5 achieves a world record for injection into this orbit. This launch also included a 1.5 m extension placed under the long fairing in order to adapt it to the specific needs of its two passengers.

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — On Sunday, October 24, at 02:10 UTC, Ariane 5 lifted off from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, successfully orbiting two satellites built by Thales Alenia Space: SES-17, a telecommunications satellite operated by SES, and SYRACUSE 4A, a telecommunications satellite developed for the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.

“With this new success for Ariane 5, which comes a week after its previous launch, Arianespace is delighted to serve the interests of two loyal customers, the operator SES and the French Ministry of the Armed Forces”, declared Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “VA255, by putting two highly innovative satellites manufactured by Thales Alenia Space into orbit, demonstrates once again the competitiveness and reliability of our launch solutions serving the ambitions of our private and institutional clients. Dedicated to connectivity and security, these satellites are at the core of our mission: Space for a better life on Earth. The next challenge for Ariane 5 will be the launch of NASA’s space telescope, James Webb, in partnership with the European Space Agency. Mission to Success!”

With this 111th mission, Ariane 5 broke the record for the cumulative net mass ever delivered to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) by a single launcher. With a total performance of 11.2 metric tons, the mass of the Ariane 5’s payloads reached 10,264 kg at separation (6,411 kg for SES-17 and 3,853 kg for SYRACUSE 4A). For this mission, Ariane 5 also reached a height of 56.4 meters, thanks to a 1.5 meter extension placed under the long fairing.

“With all the European industrial partners of the Ariane 5 program, we are proud to have set a new world record for performance to geostationary transfer orbit, serving two major and long-standing Arianespace customers. We continue to improve the European heavy launcher, and there are now six Ariane 5 launches left before it definitely enters the legend as the most reliable launcher in the world, much to the benefit of Ariane 6 that will take over flight duties in 2022. ArianeGroup is determined to innovate more and more to provide Europe with an ever more reliable access to Space,” said AndréHubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup.

Today’s launch sent two satellites into orbit:

SES-17: A telecommunications satellite for the Luxembourg-based operator SES that will offer excellent coverage of the Americas, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. It was designed to revolutionize in-flight connectivity for airline passengers and accelerate initiatives to bridge the digital divide. Its 200 powerful spot-beams can be dynamically allocated to match evolving customer requirements. SES-17 is also the first SES satellite to be fitted with an all-digital payload, controlled by a new-generation digital transparent processor (DTP), which will deliver unprecedented flexibility and efficiency. It was one of the largest satellites ever launched by Arianespace.

SYRACUSE 4A: This military communications satellite, commissioned by the French Armament General Directorate (DGA), will allow to connect the armed forces together when deployed. On the ground, at sea, on the air and even in space, militaries needs secured, militaries need secured and powerful communication means in order to be able to exchange information with the command center. Thanks to its state-of-the-art equipment (anti-jamming antenna and digital transparent processor, SYRACUSE 4A will guarantee a high resistance to extreme jamming methods. At the service of France’s sovereignty, the satellite will also support NATO and European-led operations.

SES-17 and SYRACUSE 4A will be the 164th and 165th Thales Alenia Space satellites to be launched by Arianespace.

ArianeGroup is the prime contractor in charge of the development and production of the Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers. It leads an industrial network comprising more than 600 companies, including 350 small and medium-size enterprises (SME). ArianeGroup oversees the entire Ariane 5 industrial supply chain, from design studies and upgrades to production and mission-specific data and software. The supply chain encompasses equipment and structures, manufacture of the propulsion systems, stage integration, then integration of the launcher in French Guiana. ArianeGroup delivers a flight-ready vehicle on the launch pad to its subsidiary Arianespace, which operates the flight starting with liftoff on behalf of its customers.

Ariane 5 is a European Space Agency (ESA) program, conducted jointly by public institutions and industry. Ariane 5 launches are marketed and operated by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, with support from the French space agency CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales).