Ariane 5’s fifth launch of 2011

Ariane 5 flight VA204 liftoff
21 September 2011

This evening, an Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, Arabsat-5C and SES-2, into their planned transfer orbits.

Liftoff of flight VA204, the 60th Ariane 5 mission, came at 23:38 CEST (21:38 GMT; 18:38 French Guiana). The target injection orbit had a perigee altitude of 249.6 km, an apogee altitude at injection of 35 957 km and an inclination of 2º.

The satellites were accurately injected into their transfer orbits about 27 minutes and 35 minutes after liftoff, respectively.

Arabsat-5C will be positioned above the equator at 20°E. It will deliver communications and television broadcast services to the Middle East and North Africa.

SES-2, to be positioned over 87°W, will broadcast programming for leading television stations through one of the largest distribution networks. It will also provide VSAT services for professional customers and government agencies in North America and the Caribbean.

The payload mass for this launch was 8974 kg; the satellites totalled 7830 kg, with payload adapters and dispensers making up the additional 1144 kg.

Ariane 5 flight VA204

VA204 flight timeline

The Ariane 5’s cryogenic, liquid-propellant main engine was ignited first. Seven seconds later, the solid-propellant boosters also fired, and the vehicle lifted off a fraction of a second later.

The solid boosters were jettisoned 2 min 21 sec after main engine ignition, and the fairing protecting the payload during the climb through Earth’s atmosphere was discarded at 3 min 08 sec.

The launcher’s main engine shut down at 8 min 59 sec; six seconds later, the main cryogenic stage separated from the upper stage and its payload.

Four seconds after main stage separation, the engine of the cryogenic upper stage ignited to continue the journey. The engine shut down at 25 min 04 sec into the flight, at which point the vehicle was travelling at 9368 m/s (33 724.8 km/h) at an altitude of 637.5 km. The conditions for geostationary transfer orbit injection had been achieved.

At 27 min 21 sec after main engine ignition, Arabsat-5C separated from the upper stage, followed by SES-2 at 35 min 53 sec. Ariane 5’s flight operations were completed 47 min 58 sec after main engine ignition.

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