Arianespace Flight 143 successfully placed its Intelsat 902 payload into a highly accurate geostationary transfer orbit today, continuing the Ariane 4 vehicle's unbroken run of launch successes.
A smooth countdown led to ignition of the first stage engines exactly on time at the 3:46 a.m. opening of a one-hour, early-morning launch window. of clouds, the launch vehicle was in clear view at upper altitudes. Separation of Ariane 4's four liquid strap-on boosters was visible at 2 min. 30 sec. into the mission, followed by the first stage burnout, separation and the second stage ignition.
Today's flight marked the 63rd consecutive successful launch of an Ariane 4.
Intelsat 902 is the second spacecraft in Intelsat's new-generation IX-series satellites, and is the 19th payload launched for the telecommunications operator aboard Ariane vehicles. It was preceded by Intelsat 901, launched by Arianespace last June 9 on Flight 141.
Intelsat Chief Executive Officer Conny Kullman said today's mission continued the long relationship between his organization and Arianespace.
The first Intelsat spacecraft to be carried by an Ariane was Intelsat 507, launched in 1983 aboard an Ariane 1. For that mission, the payload weighed 1.8 tons. On today's flight, the most powerful version of the Ariane 4 launcher family, an Ariane 44L, was used to loft the 4.8-ton Intelsat 902 spacecraft.
"Our competent Arianespace friends from Europe have once again delivered an Intelsat satellite into orbit, and we thank you," Kullman told the VIP audience gathered at the Spaceport's launch control center following the mission's successful completion (photo, left).
Arianespace Chairman Jean-Marie Luton announced the next Arianespace mission is set for September 25, using an Ariane 4 to orbit Eutelsat's Atlantic Bird 2 satellite. It will be followed on October 18 by the Ariane 4 launch of the DirecTV-4S satellite for DirecTV of the U.S.
Luton said the action plan that will return Ariane 5 to operational service continues to move ahead, and the next Ariane 5 mission is expected before year-end.