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February 6th, 2014

Thales Alena + Arianespace... Launch Requires Work Horse For Dual Payload... Includes Mission For Italian + French Defense Ministries (Launch)

[SatNews] This was the 216th flight of an Ariane-series vehicle, the 72nd Ariane 5 mission overall, and the 58th consecutive success for Arianespace’s workhorse heavy-lift vehicle.

And it's a go!

Statements from the primary parties in today's successful launch.
Thales Alena Space, Arianespace and Airbus Defence + Space

Kourou February 6, 2014 - The French-Italian dual (defense-security) broadband telecommunications satellite Athena-Fidus was successfully launched on February 6 by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center, Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, using an Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Thales Alenia Space is the program prime contractor on behalf of the French and Italian space agencies, CNES and ASI respectively, and the French and Italian defense ministries (procurement agency DGA for France and Segredifesa for Italy).

The Athena-Fidus satellite operates in the EHF and Ka bands, and features the latest civil telecom standards, DVB-RCS and DVB-S2. It will provide services to the French and Italian defense ministries, as well as to these countries' security organizations (homeland security, police, firefighters and other civilian organizations). Built on a Spacebus 4000 platform, the satellite weighed over 3,000 kg at launch and offers a design life exceeding 15 years.

Tropical backdrop for the successful launch.

Athena-Fidus marks the first European collaboration (Franco-Italian) on a military/dual space telecom program.

February 6, 2014 – Ariane Flight VA217

Arianespace opened a busy year of mission activity in 2014 with another Ariane 5 success today that added key numbers to the company’s commercial launch services track record.

This 250th launch performed by Arianespace lifted off from the Spaceport in French Guiana at 6:30 p.m. local time, delivering a dual-satellite payload into geostationary transfer orbit: ABS-2 for global satellite operator ABS, and Athena-Fidus for the defense/homeland security needs of France and Italy. The mission’s duration was just over 32 minutes.

With its growing order book, Flight VA217 is the first of up to 12 Arianespace missions planned from the Spaceport in 2014, which would set an operational record for the company.

Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël said the ambitious launch manifest is a challenge that Arianespace is ready to meet.  Recognizing the Spaceport’s launch teams, he noted their role in maintaining the quality, reliability and availability of the company’s Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega launcher family in a time of increased competition.

“My satisfaction is all the greater that tonight’s mission is the very symbol of Arianespace’s dual raison d’être,” he explained in post-launch
comments. “Arianespace provides Europe with a guaranteed and independent access to space; while at the same time it delivers high-quality launch services to commercial satellite operators worldwide.”

Ariane 5 provided another highly accurate performance, with the following estimated orbital parameters at the injection of its cryogenic upper stage:
- Perigee: 244.4 km. for a target of 244.4 km.
- Apogee: 35,937 km. for a target of 35,934 km.
- Inclination: 6.00 deg. for a target of 6.00 deg.

Released first during Flight VA217 was the ABS-2 relay spacecraft, which had a mass at liftoff of approximately 6,330 kg. and was the first satellite for which ABS directly awarded the launch contract – selecting Arianespace. As a result, Arianespace continued its support of new and developing communications market entrants, with more than 80 percent of satellite telecommunications operators selecting the company for their first launch milestones–placing the emphasis on quality, reliability and availability.

ABS-2 was produced by SSL (Space Systems/Loral) and will deliver optimized telecommunications, direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting, multimedia, and data transmission services for Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).  Its operational geostationary orbital slot will be at 75° East.

Deployed at the conclusion of Flight VA217 was the Athena-Fidus payload–the 50th satellite launched by Arianespace for European defense purposes.  Thales Alenia Space built the 3,080-kg.-category spacecraft as prime contractor to customer Telespazio, working on behalf of the French CNES and Italian ASI space agencies, as well as the French DGA and Italian Segredifesa defense ministry organizations. Athena-Fidus is to deliver telecommunications services to both armed forces and homeland security units in France and Italy, operated from a geostationary orbit position of 38° East.

In orbiting Athena-Fidus, Arianespace opened a key year at the service of European institutions. Included in the company’s planned 2014 mission manifest are flights for the European Commission’s Galileo and Copernicus flagship programs, along with launches with the European Space Agency’s final Automated Transfer Vehicle and the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) atmospheric reentry demonstrator.

Tonight’s launch was the 216th flight of an Ariane-series vehicle.  It marked the 72nd Ariane 5 mission overall, and the 58th consecutive success for Arianespace’s workhorse heavy-lift vehicle.

The next Arianespace mission is planned for March 7, using another Ariane 5 to orbit the ASTRA 5B and Amazonas 4A relay satellites.  Amazonas 4A–built by Orbital Sciences Corporation for Hispasat–arrived in French Guiana this week aboard a cargo jetliner.

Ariane 5 has been successfully launched from Kourou, French Guiana, for the 58th time in a row, once again confirming the reliability of the European launcher developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s number two space technology company. This launch brings Airbus Defence and Space one step closer to delivering its Comcept system. Awarded by the French defence procurement agency DGA, the development of Comcept is set to draw on the additional Ka-broadband satellite capability brought to the French armed forces.

The required performance for this, the 216th Ariane flight –for which Arianespace conducted launch operations–was 10,214 kg in geostationary transfer orbit, including 9,410 kg for the two satellites, ABS2 and Athena-Fidus, on board. The remaining mass was for SYLDA dual launch system and satellite integration hardware.

“This 58th successful launch in a row confirms the outstanding industrial capabilities of the business line Space Systems within Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor since 2003, and its ability to use its experience to implement the industrial organisation for future European launchers,” said Francois Auque, Head of Space Systems. “We would like to thank Arianespace, which commercialises launches and operates the range of European launcher systems at the Guiana Space Centre, as well as all our industrial and institutional partners.”

Airbus Defence and Space has been overseeing Ariane 5’s industrial network since 2003, covering more than 550 companies (more than 20 percent of them SMEs) in 12 European countries. Airbus Defence and Space also manages the entire industrial supply chain, from the manufacture of equipment and stages to the complete integration of the launcher in French Guiana, in line with the customer’s specifications. Drawing on the expertise the company has acquired and the investments it has made in this near 10-year period, Ariane 5 has become the most reliable commercial launcher on the global market and has increased its geostationary orbit payload capacity by nearly one metric tonne. A flagship of European know-how, the Ariane 5 launcher has been specifically designed to carry heavy payloads into space.

Arianespace launched 2 satellites: ABS2 and the French-Italian satellite Athena-Fidus, for which Airbus Defence and Space is providing one of the first digital military ultra-fast satellite communications networks, Comcept.

The Comcept system will allow the French armed forces to join their counterparts from the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a very select group of armed forces with military Ka-band networks.

 In 2013, Airbus Defence and Space was awarded the Comcept contract to provide French armed forces with the system to access broadband satellite capacity, complementary to the one provided by the French Ministry of Defence’s existing Syracuse system.

Through Comcept, the French army, air force and navy will benefit from a network of fixed and deployable ground stations, the latter deployable both in France and in theatres of operation, allowing them to exchange data, videos and telephone communications using latest-generation, full-IP (Internet Protocol) technology. The contract also provides for the option of equipping vehicles, ships, planes and drones with mobile stations.

Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for Comcept and is also responsible for the engineering and testing of the system. Its partner Actia Sodielec – which specialises in satellite telecommunications and supplies the French Ministry of Defence – is overseeing the engineering, integration and operational maintenance of the ground stations.

Airbus Defence and Space has unique expertise in new Ka-band satellite communications networks, acquired notably through its work on the UAE’s Yahsat system and Eutelsat’s KA-SAT satellite. The Comcept contract, which will run for 17 years, will be compatible with future commercial satellite networks operating in Ka-band, and will provide global coverage.