50th Ariane 5 mission succeeds

On Friday, May 21, Arianespace placed two communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit: the ASTRA 3B commercial communications satellite for the Luxembourg-based operator SES ASTRA, and the COMSATBw-2 military communications satellite built by Astrium for the German Ministry of Defense.




This was the 50th launch of an Ariane 5 and the 36th successful launch in a row. ASTRA 3B, built by Astrium, is the 33rd satellite from the SES group to have chosen the European launcher. COMSATBw-2 is the 34th military payload to use the European launcher. Astrium chose Arianespace for the launch of two military communications satellites, COMSATBw-1, orbited in October 2009, and COMSATBw-2, as part of a satellite communications system set up by the German Ministry of Defense.

The mission was carried out by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff was on Friday, May 21, 2010 at 7:01 pm local time in Kourou (6:01 pm in Washington, D.C., 22:01 UT, 12:01 am in Paris on Saturday, May 22, and at 2:01 am in Moscow).

ASTRA 3B was built by Astrium using a Eurostar 3000M platform, and weighed 5,500 kg at launch. Fitted with 60 active Ku-band transponders and four Ka-band transponders, ASTRA 3B will be positioned at 23.5 degrees East. It will deliver high-power broadcast services across all of Europe, and offers a design life of about 15 years.

COMSATBw-2 weighed 2,500 kg at launch and offers a design life of 15 years. Its coverage zone extends from the Americas to the Far East, and it will be operated from different sites by German aerospace agency DLR. German armed forces will  take advantage of a secure network for voice, data, fax, video and multimedia transmissions. Astrium is in charge of the space segment, including in-orbit delivery of the satellite. Thales Alenia Space designed, manufactured, integrated and tested the satellite, which it delivered before launch to Astrium. Most of the payload for the satellite was produced by Tesat, Astrium’s German subsidiary. Through the joint venture Milsat Services, Astrium is also responsible for the satellite communications contract.

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