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December 6th, 2014

Arianespace' VA221 Flight Moves DIRECTV-14 + GSAT-16 Off Planet + Into Orbit

Ariane 5 lifts off from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone on the daytime mission that lofted the DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 satellite payloads.

Photo courtesy of Arianespace.

[SatNews] Telecommunications satellites for two long-standing Arianespace customers were launched on December 6, 2014, on the company’s sixth Ariane 5 flight in 2014, extending the heavy-lift workhorse’s string of consecutive successes to 63.

Ariane 5 is shown ready for its liftoff at the Spaceport in French Guiana.

Photo is courtesy of Arianespace.

Delivering a total payload lift performance of approximately 10,200 kg., the mission—designated Flight VA221 in Arianespace’s numbering system—lofted DIRECTV-14 for operator DIRECTV, along with the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) GSAT-16. The DIRECTV-14 spacecraft was deployed first in the flight sequence, separating from Ariane 5 nearly 28 minutes after liftoff, followed four minutes later by its GSAT-16 co-passenger.

“This dual mission to geostationary transfer orbit is the very symbol of Arianespace’s capacity to address the entire span of satellite communications operators,” said Stéphane Israël, the company’s Chairman and CEO, in post-launch comments at the Spaceport.

The Arianespace mission diversity, which is geographic and cultural in nature, has been underscored throughout 2014 with five commercial launches performed for 10 customers evenly distributed across the globe—spanning the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The heavy-lift success on Flight VA221 continues long relationships of trust between Arianespace and each of the mission’s two customers.

The company lofted DIRECTV's first satellite in 1993 (DIRECTV-1, using an Ariane 4 version), and in total has orbited seven spacecraft for this operator, including DIRECTV-14, which also represents the 46th SSL-built (Space Systems/Loral) payload to be launched by Arianespace.

“Arianespace and DIRECTV started their cooperation 21 years ago and met with many successes together,” said Arianespace’s Israël. “With three more DIRECTV satellites lining up in our order book, this win-win relationship will enable to meet with many more in the future.”

To operate from an orbital location of 99 degrees West, DIRECTV-14 is a 20-kilowatt class Ka-band and reverse-band digital broadcast satellite that will deliver Ultra HD and other new consumer services for DIRECTV. It is based on the SSL 1300 spacecraft platform with a liftoff mass of approximately 6,300kg., and is to provide service for users across the U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Puerto Rico.

ISRO has been an Arianespace customer for 33 years, beginning with the Ariane 1 launch of its APPLE spacecraft in 1981. Since then, 17 more of the Indian space agency’s payloads have been launched, capped off with the successful deployment of GSAT-16. With a liftoff mass estimated at 3,180kg., GSAT-16 carries Ku- and C-band transponders to further augment communication services across India, operating from an orbital position of 55 degrees East.

Dr. S.K. Shivakumar, Director of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Satellite Centre (ISAC), congratulated Arianespace for the launch and accurate injection into geostationary transfer orbit for GSAT-16, adding that ISRO will be back next year for GSAT-15’s flight on another Ariane 5.

Today’s daytime launch with DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 was another on-target performance for Ariane 5.  The launch vehicle’s estimated orbital parameters at injection of its cryogenic upper stage were:

  • Perigee: 249.5km. for a target of 249.5km.
  • Apogee: 35,930 km. for a target of 35,925km.
  • Inclination: 5.99 degrees for a target of 6.00 degrees

Flight VA221 also pushed Arianespace “over the top” for a record combined payload mass orbited from French Guiana in a single year: 74.3 tons, eclipsing the previous mark set by the company in 2012.

Arianespace’s next mission will be the December 18 flight of a medium-lift Soyuz from French Guiana, which will deploy the next four connectivity satellites for operator O3b Networks.

Airbus Defence and Space, having built the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, followed this event with their congratulatory release.

Ariane 5 has been successfully launched from Kourou, French Guiana, for the 63rd time in a row, once again confirming the reliability of the European launcher developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space. The required performance for this, the 221st Ariane flight—for which Arianespace conducted the launch operations—was to transport 10,210kg. into geostationary transfer orbit, with the two satellites weighing a total of 9,480kg. The remaining mass was for the SYLDA dual launch system and the satellite integration hardware.
François Auque, Head of Space Systems, said, “We would like to thank Arianespace for their success in commercializing the launches and operating the range of European launcher systems at the Guiana Space Centre, as well as our trusted and dependable industrial and institutional partners for our joint success for more than 10 years.”

Follow Arianespace at: www.arianespace.com.

The Airbus D&S infosite may be reached at http://www.airbusdefenceandspace.com/