Television

Successful NSS launch on heels of Ariane 5 failure

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Kourou : Arianespace successfully orbited the NSS-6 satellite for New Skies Satellites N.V. from Kourou, French Guiana on 17 December 17 at 8:04 p.m. local time.

Flight 156, carried out by an Ariane 44L - the Ariane 4 launcher version equipped with four liquid-propellant strap-on boosters, was the 73rd consecutive success for Ariane 4. However, the same cannot be said of the Ariane 5 variants as last week's loss of the Ariane 5 is a major blow not only to Arianespace but the commercial launch industry, space insurance industry, and even scientists.

The failure of the new variant of Europe's Ariane 5 on 11 December was the third failure in 14 launches for the Ariane 5 dating back to 1996; a fourth launch is also considered a partial failure since it placed a test payload into an improper orbit.

Flight 157 had failed roughly three minutes into its inaugural launch after appearing to divert from its intended trajectory. This mission was also the first instance of an Ariane 5 equipped with a cryogenic upper stage, which apparently never got the chance to function, say reports.

The new upper stage was designed to boost the Ariane 5's payload capacity, enabling it to launch two satellites with a combined weight of nearly 10,000 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit.

The maiden flight was carrying the Hot Bird 7 direct-broadcast television satellite owned by Eutelsat S.A. of Paris and the French government's Stentor telecommunications research satellite, which was designed to test new technologies.

The failure also threw into doubt the scheduled 12 January 2003 launch of the European Space Agency's Rosetta comet-chaser spacecraft aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Rosetta has a 10-day launch window. If that window is missed, the next opportunity to launch the mission is in 170 years.

The launch of a new version of Europe's Ariane 5 booster failed because of an unexplained problem three minutes after launch, destroying the rocket and its payload of two satellites, according to reports.

The Ariane 5 ESC-A lifted off on schedule at 5:21 pm EST (10:21 pm GMT) and the flight appeared to be proceeding smoothly, but several minutes after launch controllers noticed the vehicle was losing speed and altitude.

Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall later said that the vehicle suffered an "anomaly" three minutes after liftoff which led to the failure. At that stage of flight the rocket's two solid-propellant strap-on boosters have already separated, but the first-stage engine continues to fire.

However, on 16 December, Arianespace has decided -- in cooperation with the European Space Agency and French CNES space agency -- to create an inquiry board to submit a report by 6 January 2003.

Meanwhile, the success of the Ariane 4 continues with the 17 December Flight 156 being the 73rd consecutive success in the series.

In its press release, Arianespace stated that the flawless orbital injection of NSS-6 fully demonstrated Arianespace's capability to ensure launch service continuity for its customers.

Flight 156 marked the second time that New Skies Satellites has relied on Arianespace for commercial launch services since the satellite company's founding in 1998.

New Skies Satellites is one of four fixed satellite operators in the world that offers true global satellite coverage, and its NSS-7 satellite was orbited by Arianespace on 17 April 17 2002 (Flight 150).

Built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems, NSS-6 is capable of connecting more than 60% of the world's population, especially in the broadcasting and business services sectors.

Weighing about 4,575 kg. at launch, it will be positioned at 95 degrees East to provide coverage of Asia, Australia, India, the Middle East and Southern Africa. NSS-6 features onboard switching, which means it can assign up to 15 transponders to each region. This high degree of coverage flexibility will enable New Skies to adapt to changing market requirements.

Flight 156 was carried out by an Ariane 44L - the Ariane 4 launcher version equipped with four liquid-propellant strap-on boosters - from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Provisional parameters at third-stage injection were:

Perigee: 199.4 km for a target of 199.7 km. (?3 km.)

Apogee: 35,904 km for a target of 35,955 km. (?150 km.)

Inclination: 6.99 degrees for a target of 6.99 degrees (?0.06 deg.)

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