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Last night marked the 50th successful Ariane flight in a row: an Ariane 5 launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to perform a dual deployment of two telecommunications satellites, Intelsat 20 and Hylas-2, into their planned transfer orbits.
Lift off of flight VA208 took place on Thursday 2 August. This was Ariane 5’s fourth launch of 2012 and the 64th Ariane 5 mission, continuing a line of launch successes unbroken since 2003.
Including its double payload, the 50.5-m-tall Ariane 5 ECA had a total lift-off mass of 780 tonnes. Its target injection orbit had a perigee (low point) of 249.5 km and apogee (high point) of 35 934 km with an inclination of 6°.
Once placed in this transfer orbit, the satellites’ own thrusters then gradually circularise their orbits to attain geostationary orbit – where they keep pace with Earth’s own rotation, causing them to remain at fixed points in the sky.
Weighing approximately 6090 kg at launch, Intelsat 20 was built for international satellite operator Intelsat by US-based Space Systems/Loral. Positioned in geostationary orbit at 68.5 degrees East – above the Indian Ocean – the satellite is replacing the Intelsat 7 and 10 satellites to provide video, telephone and data transmission services for Europe, Africa, Russia and the Middle East.
With a launch mass of 3325 kg,Hylas-2 was constructed for UK company Avanti Communications by US-based Orbital Sciences Corporation. Positioned in geostationary orbit at 33.5 degrees West – above the Atlantic – the satellite employs high-bandwidth Ka-band to provide broadband internet and two-way data services across Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.