Tuesday, January 23, 2018

First Ariane 5 Flight of 2018 to Deliver SES-14 and Al Yah 3 Communications Satellites into Orbit

Al Yah 3 satellite. Credit: Arianespace

On Thursday, January 25, Europe’s flagship Ariane 5 booster will be employed for the first time this year to orbit SES-14 and Al Yah 3 communications satellites. Ariane 5 will take to the skies from the Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) in Kourou, French Guiana. The 45-minute launch window opens at 22:20 GMT (5:20 p.m. EST).

Preparations for the mission, designated VA241 in Arianespace’s numbering system, commenced with the arrival the Al Yah 3 satellite in late November 2017. The spacecraft was fueled in mid-December and was then ready for its further pre-launch preparations.

SES-14 was shipped to French Guiana on December 22 and its fueling operations lasted from January 3 to January 5, 2018. Afterward, on January 10, the satellite was integrated on launch vehicle’s on payload adaptor. The same was done with Al Yas 3 two days later.

Until January 16, both satellites were encapsulated in the protective payload fairing and were ready for pre-launch payload checks. The launch rehearsal was conducted on January 19 and four days later, the launcher as well as its payload passed the launch readiness review, what means that they are flight-ready. The rollout of the rocket from the Final Assembly Building (BAF) to the launch pad is scheduled for Wednesday, January 24.

Thursday’s flight is expected to last some 35 minutes, ending with the separation of Al Yah 3. SES-14 will be deployed eight minutes earlier. Both satellites will be injected into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space, the SES-14 telecommunications satellite weighs about 4.4 metric tons and has dimensions of 23 x 17.7 x 8.86 feet (7 x 5.4 x 2.7 meters). It is based on the E3000 EOR platform with an onboard power of 16 kW and is fitted with two deployable solar arrays.

SES-14 will be operated by the Luxembourg-based telecommunications satellite operator SES for a designed lifetime of 15 years. Positioned 47.5 degrees West, the spacecraft will offer its services for Latin America, the Caribbean, North America and the North Atlantic region with its C- and Ku-band wide beam coverage, as well as Ku-band high-throughput spot beams coverage.

SES-14 also carries the Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD), as a hosted payload for NASA. GOLD’s main goal is to advance our understanding of the space environment. The payload will examine the response of the upper atmosphere to forcing from the Sun, the magnetosphere, and the lower atmosphere.

Al Yah 3 was built by Orbital ATK for UAE’s Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat). The satellite has a mass of nearly 3.8 metric tons and its dimensions are 17 x 11 x 9.4 feet (5.18 x 3.35 x 2.87 meters). The spacecraft is based on the GEOStar-3 bus with two deployable solar arrays and an onboard power of 8.0 kW. It is designed to operational for 15 years.

Al Yah 3 is equipped in 53 active Ka-band user beams and four gateway beams. It will be positioned 20 degrees West from where it will provide its services for Brazil and Africa. The satellite will offer two-way communications services to facilitate high-speed delivery of data to end-user applications such as broadband Internet and corporate networking as well as IP backhaul for telecommunications service providers.

The Ariane 5 in ECA configuration, which will be employed for Thursday’s launch, is the heavy-lift rocket Arianespace uses for missions to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and usually carries two telecommunications satellite payloads.

The flight is powered during the initial flight phase by a cryogenic core stage and two solid rocket boosters, followed by the use of a cryogenic upper stage for orbital injection of the payload.

The 180-foot (54.8-meter) tall ECA is an improved version of the Ariane 5 launcher and is designed to deliver payloads, mainly communications satellites, weighing up to 10 metric tons.

Although it has the same general architecture, some significant changes were made to the basic structure of the generic version to increase thrust and enable it to carry heavier payloads. ECA is also used by institutional customers for non-GTO missions; for example, launching ESA’s Herschel and Planck scientific missions in 2008.

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