Astra 3B finally placed in orbit

By Julian Clover
May 22, 2010 09.25 UK

After weeks of delay Astra 3B was finally launched in the early hours of Saturday morning. The 50th mission of the Ariane 5 rocket took off from the Spaceport in French Guiana at 19.01 local time (0.01 CET). Ariane Flight V194 was originally scheduled for launch on March 24, but suffered successive delays after a problem was identified with a pressure gauge in the main stage of the launcher.

The satellite will be brought into its final orbital position within the next weeks and will be made commercially available in June after in-orbit testing. The satellite’s co-passenger was the COMSATBw-2 secure military relay spacecraft for Astrium GmbH on behalf of the German Bundeswehr (armed forces).

Astra 3B was released first into geostationary transfer orbit, being separated from the upper passenger position of Ariane 5’s dual payload “stack” at approximately 27 minutes into the flight.

The satellite will be located at 23.5 degrees East, a position used to serve the Czech and Slovak markets, the German cable sector, and the Dutch DTH market through Canal Digitaal. It is also home to the recently launch Top TV package in South Africa.

“The successful launch of Astra 3B is another important milestone in our long-term strategy to develop and deploy our satellite fleet and secure additional growth potential,” said Ferdinand Kayser, President and CEO of SES Astra . “We have already seen a strong take-up of the new capacity by our customers and successfully pre-contracted a significant number of transponders prior to launch. This shows the high expectations of our customers and their continuous demand for Astra capacity.”

Astra 3B was built by Astrium in Toulouse, France, using a Eurostar E3000 platform. The spacecraft weighed around 5,500 kilogrammes at launch and carries 60 Ku-band and four Ka-band transponders (after the first five years 56 Ku- and four Ka-band transponders).

Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 mission is planned for June, with the Arabsat-5A and Coms-1 satellites. A video of the launch can be seen at the Arianespace website.