KOUROU, French Guyana---At 7:28 local time in Kourou, Arianespace launched two European military communications satellites: Sicral for the Italian ministry of defense, and Skynet 4F for the British Ministry of Defence.
Following Arianespace's second successful launch of the year, chairman and CEO Jean-Marie Luton said, "For the first time in its history, Ariane has orbited two European military communications satellites on a single mission. This is concrete proof that the Ariane system has met the political and strategic goal set back in 1973, of giving Europe independent access to space.
In 2000, Arianespace orbited 16 out of the 30 communications satellites launched worldwide. Our commercial and political success is due to the steady commitment of European governments and the expertise of the European space industry."
Sicral and Skynet 4F
Sicral, Italy's first military satellite, will provide communications services for the Italian ministry of defense. Leading the satellite program was the Italian consortium Sitab, including Alenia Aerospazio for the satellite, FiatAvio for propulsion systems and launch operations, and Telespazio for the ground segment.
Sicral weighed 2,596 kg. at liftoff, and is fitted with nine SHF, UHF and EHF transponders. It will be positioned at 16.2 degrees East.
Skynet 4F, built by Astrium Ltd. in Stevenage, U.K., will provide strategic and tactical communications services for the British armed forces. Predecessors Skynet 4B, 4C and 4E were launched by Arianespace in December 1988 (Flight 27), August 1990 (Flight 38) and February 1999 (Flight 116), respectively. Skynet 4F is equipped with eight SHF, UHF and S-band transponders. It weighed 1,489 kg. at liftoff and will be positioned at either 1 degree West or 6 degrees East.
61 Successful Launches in a Row for Ariane 4
Flight 139 used an Ariane 44L, the version equipped with four liquid-propellant strap-on boosters. It was the 103rd Ariane 4 out of a total of 116 ordered from the European space industry and the 61st successful launch in a row for Ariane 4.
The next launch, Flight 140, is planned for early March. An Ariane 5 will place two satellites into orbit: Eurobird for Eutelsat and BSAT-2a for the Japanese operator BSAT.
Following Flight 139, Arianespace's backlog now stands at 46 contracts: 37 satellites to be launched, plus 9 ATV missions for the International Space Station.
Arianespace Flight 139: Ariane gives European Defense a Boost