Fifth Ariane 5 launch completes a busy year

Night launch of Ariane 5 ECA
9 December 2006

On 8 December 2006, the fifth Ariane 5 launch of 2006 took place. An Ariane 5 ECA launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two satellites into geostationary transfer orbits. Lift-off of flight V174 took place at 22:08 GMT/UTC (19:08 local time, 23:08 CET/Paris). The satellites were accurately injected into the correct transfer orbits about 30 minutes later.

The payload satellites were WildBlue-1, which occupied the upper position in the payload ‘stack’ on the launch vehicle, and AMC-18, which was installed in the lower position.

WildBlue-1, with a lift-off mass of 4735 kg, will provide direct two-way wireless Internet access across the contiguous United States. AMC-18, which weighed 2080 kg at lift-off, will provide cable television services to the 50 United States and the Caribbean.

Flight timeline

The Ariane 5’s cryogenic, liquid fuelled, main engine was ignited first. Seven seconds later, the solid fuel rocket boosters were also fired, and a fraction of a second after that, the launch vehicle lifted off.

The solid boosters were jettisoned 2 min: 20sec after main engine ignition, and the fairing protecting the payload during the climb through the Earth’s atmosphere was discarded at 3 min: 07sec. The launcher’s main engine was shut down at 8 min:55 sec and the main cryogenic stage separated from the upper stage and its payload just over nine minutes into the flight.

Four seconds after main stage separation, the engine of the launcher’s cryogenic upper stage was ignited to continue the journey. The upper stage engine was shut down at 24 min:45 sec into the flight, at which point the launch vehicle was travelling at over 9300 metres per second (nearly 33 500 km/h) at an altitude of 672 kilometres and the conditions for geostationary transfer orbit injection had been achieved.

At 26 min:52 sec, WildBlue-1 separated from the launcher, followed AMC-18 at 32 min:02 sec. The mission ended 58 min:05 sec after main engine ignition.

Ariane 5 ECA

Ariane 5 ECA is the latest version of the Ariane 5 launcher. It is designed to place payloads weighing up to 9.6 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit. With its increased capacity, Ariane 5 ECA can handle dual launches of very large satellites.

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