Ariane 5 ECA Orbits Skynet 5D and Mexsat Bicentenario Satellites: 10 years of success, 10 tons of performance, 10 launches in 2012
(Source: Arianespace; issued Dec. 19, 2012)
KOUROU, French Guiana --- On Wednesday, December 19, 2012, Arianespace successfully carried out the 53rd Ariane 5 launch in a row, orbiting two payloads: the Skynet 5D military communications satellite for Astrium Services, on behalf of the British Ministry of Defence, and the Mexsat Bicentenario telecommunications satellite for the Mexican Secretariat of Communications and Transport.

10 years of success

Today's successful mission, the 53rd in a row for the European launcher in ten years, once again proves the reliability and availability of the Ariane 5 launch system.

This successful mission, the seventh for Ariane 5 in 2012 also perfectly illustrates the strategic importance of Ariane, which guarantees independent access to space for Europe. Arianespace continues to confirm its position as the world’s benchmark launch system for all telecommunications operators, whether civil or military.

10 tons of performance

Today, Ariane 5 with its 10 tons of performance is the only commercial satellite launcher now on the market capable of simultaneously launching two payloads and handling a complete range of missions, from launches of commercial satellites into geostationary orbit, to launches of dedicated scientific spacecraft into special orbits.

10 launches in 2012

With seven Ariane 5 missions, two by Soyuz and the inaugural flight of the Vega light launcher in 2012, all from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, Arianespace reaffirms its position as the company offering the widest range of launch opportunities.

In 2012 these three launchers orbited a total of 17 satellites for 15 different customers, with a cumulated payload weight exceeding 75,000 kg.

The company's Euro-Russian subsidiary, Starsem, also carried out a Soyuz launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

A launch for civil and military telecommunications

Skynet 5D is the 38th military payload to be orbited by an Ariane launcher. Arianespace has already launched seven Skynet satellites for the British Ministry of Defence.

Mexsat Bicentenario is the fifth Mexican satellite to be launched by Ariane, following Satmex 3, 4, 5 and 6 (previously known as the Morelos and Solidaridad satellites).

Skynet 5D/Mexsat Bicentenario mission at a glance

The mission was carried out by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff was on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm local time in Kourou (3:49 pm in Mexico City, 4:49 pm in Washington, D.C., 21:49 UT and 10:49 pm in Paris).

Skynet 5D was launched on behalf of Astrium Services, which will provide secure telecommunications services to the British Ministry of Defence, NATO and other countries which already use the Skynet family of military communications satellites. Built by Astrium Satellites, Skynet 5D weighed about 4,800 kg at launch. It is based on the Eurostar E3000 platform, and will offer a design life of approximately 15 years from its orbital position at 53 degrees East. Skynet 5D is the 89th Astrium satellite to be launched by Arianespace.

Built by Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, Mexsat Bicentenario is based on a GEOStar-3 platform. It weighed about 3,000 kg at liftoff, and will be positioned in geostationary orbit at 114.9 degrees West. Equipped with eight C-band and eight Ku-band transponders, it will provide telecommunications services across Mexico. Mexsat Bicentenario is the 23rd satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corporation to be launched by Arianespace. (ends)



Triple Success for Astrium
(Source: Astrium; issued Dec. 20, 2012)
-- 53rd consecutive successful launch of Ariane 5, and the seventh this year, confirming its status as the most reliable commercial launcher currently in service

-- Three Astrium prime contractorships: Astrium Space Transportation for the Ariane 5 launcher, Astrium Satellites for the Skynet 5D satellite, and Astrium Services for the operation of the Skynet 5 programme on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence

-- Three Astrium-built satellites launched within a period of less than three weeks: Pléiades 1B, Eutelsat 70B and Skynet 5D


Ariane 5 has been successfully launched from Kourou, French Guiana, for the 53rd time in a row and the seventh time this year, once again confirming the extraordinary reliability of the European launch vehicle under industrial prime contractorship of Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company. Astrium played a triple role in this launch, responsible for production of the Ariane 5 launcher, the design and manufacture of the Skynet 5D satellite and for the operation of the Skynet 5 programme on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).

Commenting on the launch, Astrium CEO François Auque said: “After Pléiades 1B and Eutelsat 70B, Skynet 5D is the third satellite designed and built by Astrium Satellites to be launched in less than three weeks. Astrium Space Transportation builds Ariane 5, the most reliable commercial launch vehicle currently in service, and Astrium Services will continue to operate the Skynet 5 programme on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence. With three prime contractorships, this evening’s launch clearly demonstrates Astrium’s broad expertise across the board from launchers to services and satellites. We are the only European company to cover the entire range of civil and military space systems and services.”

Skynet 5D is the fourth satellite in the Skynet 5 programme and will reinforce and extend the operational service already provided by this military telecommunications system. Skynet 5D has increased fuel capacity, enabling the satellite to be repositioned more frequently in orbit, enhancing its ability to respond to the operational requirements of the UK’s armed forces. The satellite has an expected operating life of at least 15 years.

Signed in 2003, Skynet 5 is the MOD’s military satellite telecommunications programme. Astrium Satellites was entrusted with the task of designing and building the satellites, while Astrium Services is responsible for system design and the day-to-day operation of the communication services as part of a public-private partnership.

Skynet 5D is the third satellite manufactured by Astrium to be launched within a period of less than three weeks. It was preceded by Pléiades 1B, launched on 1 December 2012, and Eutelsat 70B, launched on 3 December. Astrium Satellites has delivered nine satellites into orbit this year: Yahsat 1B, SPOT 6, Metop-B, Astra 2F, two Galileo IOV satellites, Pléiades 1B, Eutelsat 70B and Skynet 5D.

The total payload carried aloft by this 211th Ariane flight was 8,637 kg. The two satellites placed in geostationary orbit made up 7,735 kg of this weight, while the rest was accounted for by Astrium’s SYLDA dual launch system and structures to adapt the satellites to the payload bay.


Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Astrium had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.

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