Arianespace has orbited the SES-15 telecommunications satellite for European operator SES. Liftoff took place on Thursday, May 18 at 8:54 a.m. (local time in Kourou) from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Today’s launch was the fifth of the year for Arianespace, and the second by Soyuz from CSG to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), as well as the first Arianespace launch carrying a satellite with all-electric propulsion.
Through this latest mission, Arianespace once again demonstrates its launcher family’s availability and versatility for the benefit of all customers.
A launch for the European operator SES
SES-15 is the 40th satellite launched by Arianespace for SES since 1984. One of the world’s leading satellite operators, SES is also the first company to offer a scalable and differentiated slate of services from geostationary and medium Earth orbit (GEO/MEO). It currently deploys an operational fleet with more than 50 GEO satellites and 12 MEO satellites – the latter having all been orbited by Arianespace.
SES-15, the first all-electric satellite in the SES fleet, will offer wide beam coverage and the capacity of a high-throughput satellite (HTS). It will provide additional Ku-band wide beams, HTS capacity in Ku-band, along with Ka-band connectivity with gateways.
The satellite will offer services to the booming aeronautical sector, and will also support other traffic-intensive data applications, including governmental services, VSAT networks and maritime communications. SES-15 also carries a wide area augmentation system (WAAS) payload, which will enable the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to improve the performance of global positioning systems (GPS), by enhancing precision, integrity and availability for the aviation sector.
The satellite is equipped with an all-electric propulsion system, which will handle orbital maneuvers and orbit raising.
Arianespace has five more SES satellites in its order book: the all-electric SES-12 satellite and four more satellites for the O3b Networks constellation.
The first all-electric satellite launched by Arianespace and the second Soyuz mission from CSG into geostationary transfer orbit
All-electric satellites now account for 15% of Arianespace’s order book
Flight VS17 is the first by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center to orbit an all-electric satellite. Electric propulsion for satellites is one of the most promising technologies in space and could represent 50% of the world market in the 2020s.
This type of propulsion system uses electrical energy generated by the satellite’s solar panels, and enables the satellite’s weight to be reduced by half for a given level of performance, compared with a satellite using conventional chemical propulsion. These satellites are fitted with small electric thrusters that will propel them after separation from the launcher to their final geostationary orbital position.
With 15% of its launch order book for all-electric satellites, Arianespace accompanies the technological evolution of the satellite industry by putting its Ariane 5 and Soyuz launchers at the service of this new range of satellites.
Soyuz: a versatile launcher for Arianespace’s customers
When the mass of the satellites allows, Soyuz can carry out missions to geostationary transfer orbit as a complement to Ariane 5. Flight VS17 is the second launch to this orbit by Soyuz in 2017, following the VS16 launch for Hispasat in January 2017.
Today’s 17th Soyuz launch from CSG was different from previous missions in terms of its duration (5h18m28s) and the targeted elliptical orbit (2,200 km. perigee and 31,300 km. altitude during first apogee).
Using the Fregat upper stage, this launch placed SES-15 into a specific geostationary transfer orbit designed to significantly reduce the time needed for the satellite to move itself into its definitive position using electric propulsion. The reduction in deployment time therefore is approximately one month from the estimate of seven to eight months.
With this successful launch, the Soyuz rocket – already the benchmark for telecom and navigation constellations (Globalstar, 03b, Galileo, OneWeb) – clearly shows its versatility and ability to perfectly address the market for electric satellites. It also confirms the availability and versatility of Arianespace’s family of launchers, at the service of all customers.
Shortly after the announcement of the orbital injection of the satellite, Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, said: “With this fifth launch of the year, and the second by Soyuz into geostationary transfer orbit, Arianespace is proud to support our long-standing customer, SES. We are honored by the renewed confidence of SES, which today entrusted us with its first all-electric satellite, and for which we have placed 40 GEO satellites in orbit since 1984 – not counting all satellites in the O3b Networks constellation currently in orbit. I would also like to congratulate Boeing, another loyal partner to Arianespace, which built SES-15.
“I would like to thank the Russian space agency Roscosmos for its commitment to our partnership on the Soyuz launcher. In addition, I would like to thank CNES/CSG, our ground segment companies and all staff at the space center, who continue to work alongside us as we go from success to success. Lastly, bravo to everybody at Arianespace for this 17th Soyuz launch from CSG.”
SES-15 was built by Boeing using the all-electric 702SP platform. The payload includes wide beams in Ku-band, high-throughput capacity in Ku-band, and gateway connectivity in Ka and L-bands.
SES-15 will provide aeronautical and maritime communications services, along with services for VSAT networks and governments.
Positioned at 129° West, the satellite will cover all of North America, Mexico, and Central America – from Alaska to southern Panama, and from Hawaii to the Caribbean.
It weighed 2,302 kg at launch and offers a design life exceeding 15 years.
Arianespace and Boeing
SES-15 is the 53rd Boeing satellite to be launched by Arianespace, and the first satellite using the company’s 702SP platform to be orbited by one of the company’s launchers.
The European launch services operator has four more Boeing satellites in its order book.
Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, France, near Paris, and has a facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of Airbus Safran Launchers, which holds 74% of its capital; the balance is owned by 17 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.