Arianespace had suspended launches from Kourou since March when the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus disease had reached pandemic levels. The French government, which operates the spaceport through its space agency CNES, discouraged travel during the time and reduced activity at the spaceport.
Fremont, CA: Arianespace, the world’s first commercial launch service provider, launched two communications satellite services on an Ariane 5 rocket, completing its first launch since the reopening of the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket lifted off at 1804 hours Eastern August 15 and deployed the spacecraft into geostationary transfer orbits over the course of 48 minutes. The launch, however, was riddled with delays. It was initially postponed by two weeks to replace a problematic sensor on the rocket’s first stage, and then by a day due to upper-level winds. The climatic conditions on August 15 also caused a 34-minute delay prior to liftoff.
“As part of this mission, three satellites were deployed by the most powerful Ariane 5 ever launched,” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël. The launch marked the company’s first from the Guiana Space Center in six months and first overall in five months. The European launch service provider’s last mission was a Russian Soyuz launch from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This mega constellation startup stopped launching that same month after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Arianespace had suspended launches from Kourou since March when the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus disease had reached pandemic levels. The French government, which operates the spaceport through its space agency CNES, discouraged travel during the time and reduced activity at the spaceport. CNES and Arianespace resumed spaceport activities in French Guiana in May, paving the way for Ariane 5 and Vega launches, which only take place from the Guiana Space Center.
The company’s Ariane 5 launch, designated VA253, was unique as it carried three multi-ton spacecraft instead of two. This is the first time that an Ariane 5 rocket has launched three spacecraft to geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket’s upper berth carried Northrop Grumman’s second satellite servicer, MEV-2, with the Galaxy-30 communications satellite for Intelsat stacked atop. The lower birth, which is typically reserved for lighter satellites, housed Japanese operator Bsat’s Bsat-4b satellite A protective case called a SYLDA separated Bsat-4b from the stacked spacecraft. The three spacecraft collectively weighed nearly 9700 kilograms.
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