Ariane 5 rocket launches a French military satellite and Broadband satellite

Ariane 5 rocket is part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) long-running Arianespace programme. According to Arianespace, Ariane 5 rocket is the first new-generation launcher to reach the commercial market, arriving at least two years ahead of its closest competitors. The stakes are also high for the ESA, which has entrusted its most expensive and complex science satellite to Ariane 5 rocket.

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Riding aboard were a commercial communications satellite and the French military satellite, which along with their Ariane 5 rocket set a new record of 11.2 tons for an Arianespace launch. It was also the tallest Ariane 5 rocket ever to launch, coming in at nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) taller than the typical 165-foot-tall (50.5 m) booster.

The launch was the first for the Ariane 5 rocket since Aug. 16, 2020, when the vehicle launched two communications satellites and Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle 2. This was only the fourth Ariane 5 rocket launch since the beginning of 2020, an unusually slow pace for a vehicle that had been a mainstay of the commercial launch market.

SES-17’s services will primarily be used by the aviation, maritime, and government sectors. Based on the all-electric Spacebus NEO200 platform, its solar arrays provide up to 15 kilowatts of power while the entire satellite is designed for 15 years of service.

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SES-17 is a 6,411-kilogram telecommunications satellite that will serve the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Americas from geostationary orbit. Built by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite uses Ka-band frequencies and contains SES’s first digital payload while featuring nearly 200 spot beams — each of which can be adjusted to meet real-time requirements.

The satellite carries 200 spot beams whose power levels can be tailored to meet customer needs and is the first SES satellite to carry a completely digital payload powered by a Digital Transparent Processor, according to an Arianespace mission overview. 

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The SES-17 communications satellite is a high-throughput communications satellite designed to serve SES customers in North America, South America, and across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean with high-speed Ka-band communications coverage from a geosynchronous orbit.

The Thales Alenia Space’s 5th generation Digital Transparent Processor (DTP) embarked on SES-17 allows for easy frequency conversions as well as unlimited gateway switching and traffic routing.

Another feature of SES-17 is a new mechanically pumped loop cooling system to transport heat to the spacecraft’s radiators. The first of its kind to be used on a large communications satellite, the loop replaces the traditional heat pipe cooling system that has reached its limit for satellites of this size.

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The SYRACUSE 4A military communications satellite has a launch mass of 3,852 kilograms and will support French and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) military operations with Ka- and X-band secure, jamming resistant communications.

SYRACUSE 4A is the first of two SYRACUSE 4 satellites, the other being SYRACUSE 4B, contracted by the French Armament General Directorate to replace the SYRACUSE 3 satellites launched in the mid-2000s.

SYRACUSE 4A is based on the Spacebus NEO 100 platform from Thales Alenia Space while its sister satellite, SYRACUSE 4B, will be based on the Airbus Defence and Space Eurostar-3000EOR bus. 

“Syracuse 4A will connect most naval vessels, moving armored vehicles or aircraft: in particular Griffon armored vehicles, upcoming Suffren attack submarines or the tanker Phoenix,” Arianespace officials wrote.

Ariane 5 rocket consists of a main cryogenic core stage, two solid booster stages and an upper stage. The cryogenic stage is 30m high, and operates on non-toxic cryogenic propellant for just under 600s. The cryogenic stage has a propellant load of 132.27t of liquid oxygen and 25.84t of liquid hydrogen.

Its Vulcain engine is ignited 7s before the launcher’s lift off, allowing full monitoring during start up and stabilisation of thrust. The solid boosters propel the rocket into the orbit. The final thrust is provided by the upper stage.

Further technological development is essential to the Ariane 5 rocket continuing success. Initially, the launcher had a payload of 6,200kg. The eventual load is expected to be 12,000kg.

The most important developments affect the upper stage of the rocket. Ariane 5 Versatile is an improved version of Ariane 5 rocket current upper stage. It was operated for the first time in March 2008, increasing the GTO payload lift capability to 7,300kg-8,000kg. It is used primarily for missions to low-Earth and medium-Earth orbits.

“It will address demands for high-speed and flexible data connectivity across aviation, maritime, enterprise and government segments, advancing the region’s digitalisation objectives and helping to bridge the digital divide,” SES officials wrote in a statement last month. 

About the author

Naqvi Syed

Naqvi Syed is is a freelance journalist who has contributed to several publications, including Spacepsychiatrist. He tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. He works with Spacepsychiatrist from a long time.


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