SATURDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2014
Two communications satellites rode an Ariane 5 rocket into space Saturday — one to beam down ultra-sharp television programming into millions of American homes and another craft to give Indian citizens expanded access to information technology.
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2116 GMT (4:16 p.m. EST)
Arianespace has confirmed a successful flight for the Ariane 5 rocket, marking its 63rd success in a row since 2003.
2112 GMT (4:12 p.m. EST)
Separation of the GSAT 16 satellite is confirmed. The spacecraft carries more communications transponders than any satellite ever built in India, and GSAT 16 is beginning a 12-year mission to provide television, VSAT and other telecom services to the Indian subcontinent for the Indian Space Research Organization.
2109 GMT (4:09 p.m. EST)
Plus+29 minutes, 30 seconds. The Sylda dual-payload adapter has jettisoned, setting the stage for separation of GSAT 16 at Plus+32 minutes, 20 seconds.
2108 GMT (4:08 p.m. EST)
Separation of the DirecTV 14 satellite confirmed, beginning a 15-year mission to serve U.S. television customers for DirecTV. Built by Space Systems/Loral, DirecTV 14 is heading for geostationary orbit at 99 degrees west longitude to provide new ultra HD television programming.
2105 GMT (4:05 p.m. EST)
Plus+25 minutes, 15 seconds. The rocket's second stage shut down as scheduled. The upper stage is now maneuvering into the correct orientation for deployment of DirecTV.
2104 GMT (4:04 p.m. EST)
Plus+24 minutes. The rocket is surpassing a speed of 20,500 mph. Shutdown of the upper stage is about a minute from now. A tracking station in Malindi, Kenya, is now in contact with Ariane 5.
2101 GMT (4:01 p.m. EST)
Plus+21 minutes. The upper stage will shut down at Plus+25 minutes, 7 seconds, after reaching a target orbit with a low point of 155 miles, a high point of 22,236 miles, and an inclination of 6 degrees.
2058 GMT (3:58 p.m. EST)
Plus+18 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 194 km and velocity is 8.37 km/s. After intentionally losing altitude in order to gain speed, the Ariane 5 is now climbing again.
2057 GMT (3:57 p.m. EST)
Plus+17 minutes, 40 seconds. Everything is going well with the burn of the upper stage HM7B engine as the Ariane 5 races across the Atlantic Ocean at 8.25 kilometers per second, or more than 18,000 mph.
2054 GMT (3:54 p.m. EST)
Plus+14 minutes. A tracking station on Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean has picked up signals from the Ariane 5.
2052 GMT (3:52 p.m. EST)
Plus+12 minutes. This upper stage engine burn will last approximately 16 minutes.
2049 GMT (3:49 p.m. EST)
Plus+9 minutes, 45 seconds. The Ariane 5 has passed over the horizon from Kourou and is now out of range of the Galliot tracking station near the launch pad.
2049 GMT (3:49 p.m. EST)
Plus+9 minutes, 15 seconds. The main cryogenic stage's Vulcain engine has cut off and the spent stage has separated. It will fall back into the atmosphere into the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa.
And the upper stage's HM7B engine is now firing to inject the DirecTV 14 and GSAT 16 satellites into orbit.
2048 GMT (3:48 p.m. EST)
Plus+8 minutes. Now in range of a communications station in Natal, Brazil, the launcher is about to shut down its first stage and ignite its cryogenic upper stage. Downrange distance is now about 1,300 km.
2045 GMT (3:45 p.m. EST)
Plus+5 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitute is 160 km, downrange distance is 558 km and velocity is 3.37 km/s.
2043 GMT (3:43 p.m. EST)
Plus+3 minutes, 30 seconds. Separation of the rocket's nose cone has been confirmed. The Ariane 5 core stage will continue burning until about Plus+9 minutes into the mission.
2042 GMT (3:42 p.m. EST)
Plus+2 minutes, 30 seconds. The solid rocket boosters have been jettisoned from the Ariane 5 rocket's core stage after consuming approximately 480 metric tons of propellant. The liquid-fueled Vulcain 2 main engine continues to fire to propel the vehicle and its satellite payload to space.
2041 GMT (3:41 p.m. EST)
Plus+60 seconds. The vehicle is on the proper heading as it rides the power of the twin solid rocket boosters and main stage liquid-fueled engine.
2040 GMT (3:40 p.m. EST)
Liftoff of an Ariane 5 rocket on a dual-satellite delivery mission with DirecTV 14 and GSAT 16!
2039 GMT (3:39 p.m. EST)
Minus-1 minute. A fast-paced series of events leading to launch will begin at Minus-37 seconds when the automated ignition sequence is started. The water suppression system at the launch pad will start at Minus-30 seconds. At Minus-22 seconds, overall control will be given to the onboard computer. The Vulcain main engine will be readied for ignition with hydrogen chilldown starting at Minus-18 seconds.
The residual hydrogen burn flares will fire beneath the Vulcain engine at Minus-6 seconds to burn away any free hydrogen gas. At Minus-3 seconds, onboard systems take over and the two inertial guidance systems go to flight mode. Vulcain main engine ignition occurs at Minus-0 seconds with checkout between Plus+4 and 7 seconds. If there are no problems found, the solid rocket boosters are ignited at Plus+7.0 seconds for liftoff at Plus+7.3 seconds.
2038 GMT (3:38 p.m. EST)
Minus-2 minutes. The Vulcain main engine supply valves are being opened. And the ground valves for engine chilldown are being closed.
2037 GMT (3:37 p.m. EST)
Minus-3 minutes. The scheduled launch time has been loaded into the rocket's main computer system. The main stage tank pressures should now be at flight level.
2036 GMT (3:36 p.m. EST)
Minus-4 minutes. Pressurization is now underway for the main cryogenic stage's liquid oxygen and hydrogen tanks. Also, final pyrotechnic arming is starting.
2035 GMT (3:35 p.m. EST)
Minus-5 minutes. All status panel lights remain green, indicating no problems right now that could prevent blastoff at 2040 GMT.
2034 GMT (3:34 p.m. EST)
Minus-6 minutes. Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen supplies of the main cryogenic stage are being verified at flight level. Also, the pyrotechnic line safety barriers are being armed.
2033 GMT (3:33 p.m. EST)
Minus-7 minutes and counting.
The synchronized sequence has started. Computers are now in control of this automated final phase of the launch countdown to prepare the rocket and ground systems for liftoff. There are three computers running the countdown - one aboard the Ariane 5 and two redundant computers at the launch complex.
The launch time is set for 2040 GMT (3:40 p.m. EST). Liftoff actually occurs even seconds later with ignition of the solid rocket boosters.
2032 GMT (3:32 p.m. EST)
Minus-8 minutes. The synchronized countdown sequence is supposed to begin in one minute, transferring all control over to computers.
2030 GMT (3:30 p.m. EST)
Minus-10 minutes. The synchronized launch sequence will begin in three minutes.
2029 GMT (3:29 p.m. EST)
Minus-11 minutes. All parameters, including weather and technical readiness, are reporting green on the status board inside the Jupiter control room at the Guiana Space Center.
2020 GMT (3:20 p.m. EST)
Minus-20 minutes. The Synchronized Sequence is being prepped for activation. This computer-run sequence assumes control of the countdown at the Minus-7 minute mark to perform the final tasks to place the rocket and pad systems in launch configuration.
At Minus-4 seconds, the rocket's onboard computer will take over control of main engine start, health checks of the powerplant and solid rocket booster ignition commanding for liftoff.
2010 GMT (3:10 p.m. EST)
Minus-30 minutes. Today's launch will deliver the DirecTV 14 and GSAT 16 communications satellites to an orbit targeting a planned high point of 22,236 miles, a targeted low point of 155 miles and an inclination of 6 degrees.
The satellites will use their on-board engines to raise their orbits and position themselves over the equator.
The 13,887-pound DirecTV 14 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will begin a 15-year operational mission beaming direct-to-home television services to the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.
Based on the Loral 1300-series satellite bus, the satellite carries 16 Ka-band transponders and 18 transponders in the so-called "reverse band" which is normally used to transmit signals from Earth into space. Regulators have freed the reverse band for use in downlink communications, opening up opportunities to use the untapped spectrum commercially.
DirecTV 14 will be positioned in geostationary orbit at 99 degrees west longitude and expand DirecTV's ultra HD programming offerings.
The 7,014-pound GSAT 16 spacecraft, manufactured by the Indian Space Research Organization, will provide more communications capacity than any other satellite ever built in India.
Positioned at 55 degrees east longitude, GSAT 16 is designed for a 12-year mission to support television, VSAT and other communications services in India.
The rocket will take more than 32 minutes to inject the satellites into orbit and release them. The payloads have a combined mass of approximately 22,473 pounds, or 10,194 kilograms, including the barrel-shaped Sylda dual-payload adapter.
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1950 GMT (2:50 p.m. EST)
Minus-50 minutes. All parameters continue to look good for launch in 50 minutes. A communications check between ground stations and the rocket should be concluding now.
Here are some statistics on today's launch:
- 221st Ariane rocket launch since 1979
- 77th Ariane 5 launch since 1996
- 45th Ariane 5 ECA launch since 2002
- 259th Arianespace launch since 1980
- 51st flight of a Vulcain 2 engine
- 179th flight of an HM7B engine
- 65th Ariane 5 launch targeting GTO
- 7th DirecTV satellite launched by Arianespace
- 46th Space Systems/Loral satellite launched by Arianespace
- 18th ISRO satellite launched by Ariane
- 10th launch from Guiana Space Center in 2014
- 6th Ariane 5 launch in 2014
- 80th global space launch attempt in 2014
1940 GMT (2:40 p.m. EST)
Minus-60 minutes. The Ariane 5's first and second stages are now loaded with cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants.
The 17.7-foot-diameter first stage's Vulcain 2 engine burns 149.5 metric tons, or about 329,000 pounds, of liquid oxygen and 25 metric tons, or about 55,000 pounds, of liquid hydrogen. The cryogenic upper stage's HM7B engine consumes about 14.7 metric tons, or more than 32,000 pounds, of oxygen and hydrogen.
The fluids are stored at super-cold temperatures and naturally boil off in the warm tropical atmosphere in French Guiana. More propellant is slowly pumped into the rocket for most of the countdown to replenish the cryogenic fuel.
The topping sequence ends in the final few minutes of the countdown as the fuel tanks are pressurized and the fueling system is secured.
Built by a consortium of European contractors led by Safran in Vernon, France, the Vulcain 2 engine generates up to 300,000 pounds of thrust during its 9-minute firing. It burns about 320 kilograms, or 705 pounds, of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant per second.
The engine's nozzle has an exit diameter of 2.1 meters, or about 6.9 feet. It weighs more than 4,600 pounds and its liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen turbopumps spin at 12,300 rpm and 35,800 rpm, respectively.
The Vulcain 2 replaced the Vulcain engine used on the initial version of the Ariane 5. The newer engine produces 20 percent more thrust.
The Ariane 5's upper stage is powered by an HM7B engine, a modified version of the HM7 engine used on the upper stage of the Ariane 4 rocket. The 364-pound HM7B engine is manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space in Ottobrunn, Germany.
The HM7B engine produces more than 14,500 pounds of thrust in vacuum.
The Ariane 5 configuration with a Vulcain 2 engine and HM7B-powered cryogenic upper stage is known as the Ariane 5 ECA.
The Ariane 5's twin solid rocket boosters are packed with propellant near the launch site in French Guiana before they are assembled and positioned on each side of the cryogenic core stage.
With the rocket now fully fueled for launch, the vehicle weighs 1.7 million pounds. At liftoff, the rocket produces 2.9 million pounds of thrust.
1850 GMT (1:50 p.m. EST)
The Ariane 5 rocket's first and second stages, known by the French acronyms EPC and ESC-A, have been filled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The first stage Vulcain 2 engine and the upper stage HM7B engine both consume the super-cold propellants.
The cryogenic propellant will be gradually pumped inside the rocket to maintain proper levels as the fuel evaporates over the rest of the countdown.
1645 GMT (11:45 a.m. EST)
The countdown is underway for this evening's launch of an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, according to Arianespace.
Chilldown of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant lines at the ELA-3 launch pad has begun. The chilldown procedure helps condition the ground plumbing before the cryogenic propellants are pumped inside the Ariane 5's first and second stages.
Workers finished their hands-on tasks on the launch pad, including the closure of doors, removal of safety barriers and configuring fluid lines for fueling. The ground team then evacuated the ELA-3 launch pad before the start of fueling.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2014
Arianespace says launch of an Ariane 5 rocket has been postponed again by unfavorable high-altitude winds over French Guiana.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2014
Liftoff of an Ariane 5 rocket has been delayed due to unfavorable weather over the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana.
"Another launch date will be decided depending on the evolution of the weather conditions in Kourou," Arianespace said in a statement.
The rocket was expected to take off at 3:38 p.m. EST (2038 GMT) Thursday with the DirecTV 14 and GSAT 16 communications satellites, but liftoff is now expect Friday, at the earliest.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2014
Mounted on top of a mobile launch platform, an 18-story Ariane 5 rocket rolled out to the Guiana Space Center's ELA-3 launch zone Wednesday for liftoff with a spacecraft to beam television broadcasts into millions of U.S. homes and one of the most powerful telecom satellites ever produced in India.
The rocket and launch platform were towed by a Titan tug powered by a 540-horsepower engine with dual transmission modes to control its movements with millimeter precision while running at full power.
The one-hour transfer of the launcher to the ELA-3 launch zone was to be followed by the careful positioning of the rocket's mobile launch platform over the flame trench, then the connection of the rocket with the launch pad's electrical, telemetry and propellant loading systems.
Ground crews planned to fill the Ariane 5 first stage's helium pressurization system later Wednesday.
The Ariane 5 rocket is set for its sixth flight of the year, with liftoff scheduled for 2038 GMT (3:38 p.m. EST; 4:38 p.m. French Guiana time) Thursday. The launch will mark the 77th Ariane 5 mission since its debut in 1996.
It will take about a half-hour for the hydrogen-fueled launcher to deposit the DirecTV 14 and GSAT 16 communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit, an oval-shaped circuit around the Earth that is a common waypoint for telecom platforms heading for operational positions 22,300 miles over the equator.
Thursday's launch will mark the 10th launch of the year for Arianespace, which oversees Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega rocket operations from the tropical spaceport at the edge of the Amazon jungle near Kourou, French Guiana.
DirecTV 14 was built by Space Systems/Loral and will broadcast ultra high-definition video broadcasts to the company's subscribers across the United States.
The GSAT 16 satellite, which rides in the lower berth of the Ariane 5's twin payload accommodation, carries more C-band and Ku-band transponders than any Indian communications satellite before it. It will support TV broadcasts and emergency communications.