Investigation Pinpoints Cause of Ariane 5 Partial Failure

Ariane 5 launches with SES-14 and Al Yah 3 satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

Bad Coordinates Placed Satellites in Incorrect Orbits

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — The Independent Enquiry Commission formed after the Ariane 5 launcher’s trajectory deviation during its January 25, 2018 mission issued its conclusions on Thursday, February 22. The anomaly’s cause is perfectly understood and recommendations are clearly identified.

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Ariane 5 Anomaly: Satellites Healthy But Not Where They Should Be

Ariane 5 launches with SES-14 and Al Yah 3 satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An Ariane 5 booster delivered two communications satellites into the wrong orbits on Thursday, but their owners say the spacecraft are healthy and will be able to reach their intended destinations using on-board propulsion.

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Ariane 5 Suffers Anomaly, Chinese Launch 3 Satellites

UPDATE: Agence France Presse (AFP) is reporting the problem with Ariane 5 involved more than just a loss of telemetry:

But a source told AFP the satellites did not detach from the rocket in the correct place after the craft followed an “imperfect trajectory”.

Arianespace said they were currently “repositioning the satellites in the right place using their propulsion systems” adding that the current status was “reassuring after strong concerns”.

I don’t see any further updates on the mission on the websites of Arianespace, SES or Yahsat. This leads me to believe the AFP report is accurate. If it had been a simple telemetry loss, Arianespace would have said so, and there would be press releases and social media messages declaring the flight to be a complete success.

Yahsat does have a link to a page with an update about the mission. It’s in Arabic so I ran it through Google Translate. The update doesn’t appear to go beyond Arianespace’s original statement about the spacecraft separating from the second stage and being in contact with control centers.
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Controllers lost contact with the upper stage of an Ariane 5 booster carrying a pair of communications satellites on Thursday. The loss telemetry began a few seconds after ignition of the stage and continued through the rest of the powered flight, Arianespace said in a statement.

“Subsequently, both satellites were confirmed separated, acquired and they are on orbit,” the company said. “SES-14 and Al Yah 3 are communicating with their respective control centers. Both missions are continuing.”

The precise orbital parameters of the geosynchronous communications satellites are unknown.  SES-14 will use electric propulsion to reach its intended orbit while the Al Yah 3 will use a liquid bi-propellant transfer system.

Earlier on Thursday, China launched the fourth group of three Yaogan Weixing-30 satellites. A Long March 2C booster flew from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Officially, the Yaogan Weixing are remote sensing spacecraft. However, analysts believe they are military reconnaissance satellites.

The flight marked China’s fifth successful launch of 2018. The nation is aiming to achieve more than 40 orbital launches this year.

Arianespace Prepares for Intense 2018, Looks to Future with Ariane 6 & Vega C

Ariane 5 launch on Dec. 12, 2017. (Credit: Arianespace)

EVRY, France 9 (Arianespace PR) — The past year saw Arianespace carry out 11 successful launches; sign 19 additional launch contracts, including three for Vega C and two for Ariane 6; and enter a new governance structure alongside ArianeGroup.

Building on these achievements, Arianespace is targeting a record number of launches in 2018, while actively focusing on the next decade with its Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers.
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Intelsat Signs Contract with Arianespace for Two Satellite Launches

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace signed an agreement to launch two satellites for longtime customer Intelsat, one of the world’s largest satellite operators. This continues the longstanding relationship between Intelsat and Arianespace that dates back to 1983.

The first launch will carry the Galaxy 30 satellite together with the Orbital ATK Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV- 2) as a stacked pair. Galaxy 30 will be the first replacement satellite for the North American Galaxy Fleet and in addition to its C-band payload, Galaxy 30 will include Ku- and Ka-band payloads to support broadband applications in North America. The launch of Galaxy 30 demonstrates Intelsat’s commitment to its distribution neighborhoods, which has an unmatched penetration of cable headends in the United States. Galaxy 30 is based on Orbital ATK’s GEOStar-2™ satellite platform.

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End in Sight for Ariane 5 As Order Submitted for Last 10 Boosters

Ariane 5 launch on Dec. 12, 2017. (Credit: Arianespace)

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — With this latest order, there are now 23 Ariane 5 launchers in production or to be produced, from the PB+ and PC batches. With this latest “PC batch,” the industry confirms its commitment to consolidate the competitiveness of the European launch offer even before the arrival of Ariane 6.

ArianeGroup and its Arianespace subsidiary have announced an order for 10 Ariane 5 ECA launchers.
The 10 launch vehicles covered by this “PC batch” will be deployed from the Guiana Space Center beginning in 2020, coming after the launches of 18 Ariane 5s ordered in 2013 (in the “PB+ batch”).
This production order represents a total value of more than one billion euros for the European space industry, involving more than 600 companies in 12 European countries* – including 350 small and medium-sized enterprises.

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SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

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Missions to Moon, Mars, Mercury & More Set for 2018

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

Updated with SpaceX’s Red Tesla launch.

An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.

NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.

And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars.
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Ariane 5 Orbits Four Galileo Satellites

Ariane 5 launch on Dec. 12, 2017. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace has successfully launched satellites 19, 20, 21 and 22 in the Galileo constellation, using an Ariane 5 heavy launcher on behalf of the European Commission (DG GROW) and under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The launch took place on December 12, 2017 at 3:36 p.m. (local time) from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
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Busy Launch Week With Flights to ISS, Electron Test

The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

We’ve got a busy launch week coming up with a new three-man crew headed for the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX launching a Dragon resupply mission to the station, and Rocket Lab attempting the second flight test of its Electron small-satellite launcher. Europe and China are also launching satellites this week.

December 10

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Alcomsat 1 communications satellite (Algeria)
Launch Time: Approx. 1635 GMT (11:35 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

December 10/11

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 3 Planet and Spire CubeSats
Launch Window: 0130-0530 GMT on 11th (8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST on 10/11th)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: http://www.rocketlabusa.com

December 12

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon (CRS 13 mission)
Launch Time: 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: http://www.spacex.com and http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv/

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payloads: Galileo 19-22 navigation satellites
Launch Time: 1836:07 GMT (1:36:07 p.m. EST)
Launch Site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: http://www.esa.int

December 17

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz spacecraft with Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos), Scott Tingle (NASA) and Norishige Kanai (JAXA)
Launch Time: 0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv/

Proton’s Competitiveness Threatened by High Insurance Costs

A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

The Proton rocket’s’s string of failures and its year-long grounding following a 2016 launch anomaly have raised payload insurance rates so high  for the booster that its commercial viability is threatened.

Insurance premiums for launches of International Launch Services’ Russian Proton rocket, which satellite operators and insurers say is a necessary third leg for the commercial market — the SpaceX Falcon 9 and the ArianeGroup Ariane 5 being the other two — total about 12% of the insured value.

That compares with 3-4% for Ariane 5 and 4-5% for the Falcon 9.

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SES Selects Arianespace for Launch of SES-17

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG

PARIS (Arianespace PR) — SES has selected Arianespace to launch its high-power, high-throughput satellite SES-17 on an Ariane 5 in 2021 from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. This was announced by SES and Arianespace in Paris today.

SES-17 is a powerful satellite delivering high-speed inflight connectivity and high-powered data services over the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean. SES-17 is the 53rd satellite entrusted to Arianespace for launch by SES (Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG).

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Engineers Identify Cause of Ariane 5 Launch Abort

The Ariane 5 launcher for Arianespace Flight VA239 – outfitted with the Intelsat 37e and BSAT-4a satellite passengers – approaches its launch zone at the Spaceport in French Guiana. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Just after the ignition of Ariane 5’s main stage Vulcain engine, the on-board computer detected an anomaly affecting electrical equipment on one of the two solid-propellant boosters (EAP). This anomaly led to an interruption of the automated lift-off sequence.

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Ariane 5 Suffers Abort After Engine Ignition

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — In the last seconds of Ariane Flight VA239 launch countdown as the Vulcain cryogenic main stage engine was being ignited, the checkout process detected an anomaly on the launcher, interrupting the final countdown.

The Ariane 5 launcher and payload Intelsat 37e and BSAT-4a immediately switched to a safe mode. Data analysis is underway to determine the cause of the anomaly. In parallel, the launcher will be transferred to the Final Assembly Building – where it will be returned to a flight-ready condition.

Arianespace will set a new launch date as soon as possible and apologizes to its customers for this delay.