2002 – an exciting year ahead
The first launch of 2002 is scheduled for Wednesday, 23 January, when an Ariane 4 launcher will take off from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana with a telecommunications satellite on board. This will be the first of at least 13 launches currently scheduled for 2002.
Ariane 5 launches will resume in February 2002 with the launch of Envisat, ESA’s latest and most innovative Earth observation satellite. To increase efficiency, a new ignition sequence has been designed for the Aestus upper-stage engine of the Ariane 5 and new acceptance testing procedures are now in place.
Altogether five Ariane-5 launches are planned to take place in 2002, one of which will send SMART-1, the first of ESA’s small missions for advanced research in technology satellites, on its journey to the moon.
2002 will also mark the entry into service of the ESC-A cryogenic upper stage and the Vulcain II cryogenic engine. This will increase the Ariane-5 payload capacity for launching satellites into geostationary orbit to 9.5 tonnes. It will also make Europe’s spaceport in Kourou the world’s most flexible spaceport, able to launch a wide variety of satellites for its many clients.
The new facilities that came into operation in 2001 have also helped to increase the competitiveness of Europe’s spaceport. In July the new S5 payload process complex was opened covering an area of 10 000 m². This is the most modern facility of its kind in the world and will enable the spaceport to handle up to four launch campaigns at the same time of very large payloads such as Envisat or the future Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).
Other improvements that took place during the year included upgrading the spaceport’s integration and assembly buildings as well as the Ariane 5 launch zone, to accommodate the ESC-A upper stage when it comes into operation later this year.
Europe’s spaceport has never been so well equipped to handle the new challenges faced by the space industry. 2002 is set to be another exciting year for European launchers.