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Arianespace Launches New Satellites for Internet, Weather

Arianespace Launches New Satellites for Internet, Weather

Published on August 6, 2012
Latest Advances Reaffirm France’s Leading Role in Space Technology

The France-based satellite company Arianespace has had a busy month, executing launches of four satellites for public- and private-sector stakeholders.

The latest launch took place on August 2, when the group’s rocket, called the Ariane 5 ECA, carried two satellites into orbit from the Arianespace base in Kourou, French Guiana.

One of the satellites, the HYLAS 2, will be used by the European group Avanti Communications to deliver video, voice and data network services nearly worldwide. The other, Intelsat 20, was commissioned by the American space company of the same name, and will provide many of the same data transmission services for Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Russia.

The launch follows two others which both took place on July 5, when Arianespace engineers successfully pushed a different pair of vessels into orbit. The first, called the EchoStar XVII, was commissioned by U.S. Internet operator Hughes, and will enhance the company’s offerings to customers in North America. During their flight into space, each satellite reached a top speed of nearly 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per second.

The second spacecraft, the MSG-3, was the latest order from EUMETSAT, a European Union organization involving scientists, engineers and researchers from 26 EU member states and five participating states. The satellite’s function consists of supplying super-fast updates on weather and climate patterns.

The images typically seen behind TV weather announcers are generated by satellites like those recently put into orbit, and the new vessel will improve weather service for audiences in 31 primarily European countries. Among the new tools aboard the satellites are cameras capable of recording the whole of Europe’s weather data in five minutes, and the Earth’s weather data in 15 minutes.

Arianespace continues a strong tradition of space research, navigation and innovation. Headquartered outside of Paris, the company operates a clutch of offices around the world, including Washington, D.C. Between its busy launch site in Kourou and another in Kazakhstan, Arianespace works with some 40 space-industry businesses and organizations.

The group work serves as the "undisputed benchmark in the global launch services market," according to a communiqué it published in July.

Each of this summer’s launches took place at Arianespace’s state-of-the-art facility in Kourou, where what was once a French launch site has broadened its scope to include participants from all over the European Union. Also known as the Guiana Space Center, the site has evolved since beginning operations in 1968 to assume a lead role as Europe’s foremost spaceport.

The composition of Arianespace’s shareholders reflects the Europeanization of space activities, with its 21 shareholders hailing from 10 European countries. France’s space agency, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), holds 34 percent, with another 30 percent held by Astrium, the space subsidiary of the European industrial conglomerate EADS.

Arianespace has acted as a leader in space operations since its founding in 1980. The company has overseen more than 300 satellite launches and has won over half of all international commercial launch contracts in the last two years. It works in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Union’s space organization, often executing launch plans once launch systems have been qualified by the ESA.

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