Ariane 5 rolls out for its launch with ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2

The Ariane 5 for Arianespace's next mission has moved to the launch pad at Europe's Spaceport, readying it for tomorrow's liftoff with a mixed civilian and military telecommunications satellite payload.

Rolling out under clear skies, the heavy-lift vehicle was moved from its Final Assembly Building to the ELA-3 launch zone this morning in French Guiana.

Preparations now are underway for tomorrow's final countdown, which will lead to the liftoff during a launch window that opens at 6:59 p.m. local time and continues to 7:48 p.m. (21h59-22h48 UTC).

Ariane 5's payload lift performance for this mission is a total of 9,116 kg., which includes a mass of 7,971 kg. for its satellite passengers, along with the associated integration hardware and the launcher's SYLDA multi-payload dispenser system.

Riding as the upper passenger in Ariane 5's payload "stack" is ASTRA 3B, which will be released at just under 28 minutes into the flight. This EADS Astrium-built telecommunications satellite weighs approximately 5,471 kg., and is to be positioned at SES ASTRA's important 23.5 deg. East orbital position.

COMSATBw-2 - which has a liftoff mass of 2,440 kg. - will be deployed from Ariane 5's lower passenger position at approximately 33 minutes into the flight. The satellite will deliver key services for Germany's Bundeswehr (armed forces), operating from an orbital position of 13.2 deg. East. It was designed, integrated and tested by Thales Alenia Space on behalf of EADS Astrium - the program's space segment prime contractor.

Tomorrow's mission will be the milestone 50th flight of an Ariane 5. To mark this occasion, the launch vehicle's payload fairing carries a special commemorative logo.

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