Arianespace kicked off its fast-paced 2016 operational schedule tonight with the 70th consecutive launch success using Ariane 5, which orbited a pioneering new-generation satellite for this workhorse vehicle’s leading commercial customer. Lifting off exactly on time from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone in French Guiana, Ariane 5 released Intelsat 29e – international operator Intelsat’s milestone first high-throughput EpicNG-series spacecraft – into geostationary transfer orbit after a flight sequence that lasted approximately 30 minutes. The mission was designated Flight VA228 in Arianespace’s numbering system.
Intelsat 29e, which had a liftoff mass estimated at 6,552 kg., is the 56th Intelsat satellite to be launched by Arianespace to date – extending a long relationship between the two companies that was further underscored by Arianespace Chairman & CEO Stéphane Israël during his comments from the Spaceport.
“Our companies started their cooperation more than 32 years ago with the launch of Intelsat 507 in 1983,” he said, speaking from the Jupiter control room. “Tonight, we are particularly proud to contribute to Intelsat’s goal of delivering global high-throughput satellite services with the launch of the first of its new EpicNG series.”
Intelsat 29e has one of the most advanced digital payloads commercially available – operating in the C, Ku and Ka frequency bands. The spacecraft will offer enterprise-grade broadband services to fixed and mobile network operators, aero and maritime mobility service providers, along with government customers; and its coverage area is the Americas and over the North Atlantic (for sea and aviation routes).
Israël added that Arianespace’s support for Intelsat is far from over, saying: “Our roadmap is now clear: Arianespace is ready to deliver Intelsat 33 and Intelsat 36 this year, and next year it will be Intelsat 37. ”
During his own post-launch comments, Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler paid tribute to Arianespace for another successful launch with one of the company’s spacecraft. He added: “It is known for delivering, and tonight, Arianespace delivered.”
Payload prime contractor Boeing also was acknowledged following Intelsat 29e’s successful launch, as it marked the first time in more than eight years that one of the company-built satellites was orbited on an Arianespace mission. With tonight’s flight, the company has launched 51 Boeing-built spacecraft in total.
Speaking to the Boeing team members in attendance, Israël added: “We are on track for another series of successful launches with no less than four of your future satellites in our order book.”
These four spacecraft consist of the two additional Intelsat satellites for launch in 2016 and 2017; along with SES-15 – which will be orbited for operator SES, and one for an undisclosed customer.
Boeing Satellite Systems President Mark Spiwak was in attendance at the Spaceport and offered his own special take on Arianespace’s role in the Flight VA228 success. “It was cloudy all day today, and Stéphane – I don’t know how you did it – but as the rocket was ready to go, the clouds parted and it was a beautiful evening.” He added jokingly: “I commend Arianespace for having a higher ability to control the weather.”
Tonight’s mission was unique for more than its pioneering EpicNG payload. First, Intelsat 29e has the distinction of being a single telecommunications satellite on a dedicated Ariane 5 flight – which is in contrast to the typical two-passenger configuration for this launcher on missions to geostationary transfer orbit.
“Today’s launch represents a truly ‘epic’ moment in communication’s history, as we begin a new era of high throughput satellite services for our customers,” stated Stephen Spengler, Chief Executive Officer, Intelsat. “This is a testament to the innovation and creativity of the Intelsat team who envisioned the Intelsat EpicNG platform nearly four years ago. Through design expertise and a deep understanding of our customers’ requirements, the Intelsat EpicNG platform will deliver high performance, improved economics and simplified access that will expand the addressable market for our solutions.”
Flight VA228 also was the first Arianespace mission since 2002 to be performed in the month of January – giving the company an excellent start as it targets a record operational year for Ariane 5, with as many as eight launches to be performed in 2016 using the heavy-lift vehicle.
“Be it for telecommunications or other applications such as ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle resupply spacecraft) toward the International Space Station, nobody should dispute that Ariane 5 has already made history in the launch industry,” said Arianespace’s Israël as he looked to the future successor. “We do not intend to rest on our laurels. 2016 will be the year of the full confirmation of Ariane 6, which will be our success story for the next decade.”
Altogether, Arianespace has the objective of performing up to 11 missions in 2016 with its full launcher family of today – consisting of the heavy-lift Ariane 5, medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega.