Ariane gets Arabsat and ProtoStar away

The 40th successful Ariane launch placed a pair of satellites in orbit on Monday night from the Kourou, French Guiana launch-site. BADR-6 (“Full Moon”) is the latest satellite for Riyadh-based Arabsat’s “hot spot” at 26 deg East, while ProtoStar-1 will go to 98.5 deg East, beaming DTH signals into India. Indeed, the statistics streamed out from Kourou, and the European Space Agency (the 260th and 261st payloads carried, the eighth launch in the past 11 months). The key fact, however, is that this is the fourth launch of the year and one of a planned manifest of seven. The next launch is slated for early August.

BADR-6 (which was ordered as Arabsat 4-C) was built to replace Arabsat 4-A, which was lost in a Proton launch failure in early 2006. Placing BADR-6 into orbit generated a huge sigh of relief for the Arabsat launch and commercial teams, and delivers much-needed capacity to the region.

Abdulhadl Al Hassani, the Spacecraft Mission Director at Arabsat, said the Ariane 5’s success was a “moment of sheer joy and excitement.” He referenced Arianespace’s unofficial motto (“launches speak louder than words”) and added: “We’d like to tell Arianespace that after today’s launch, we hear you loud and clear!”

BADR-6 is the third of Arabsat’s fourth-generation satellites, and is part of the overall plan to launch a new satellite into orbit every year until 2012. Arabsat carries 20 Ku-band and 24 C-band transponders, some of which are ready to carry HDTV signals.

Khalid Balkeyour, Arabsat’s CEO said: "The superb joint effort and cooperation among the three launching and manufacturing companies was definitely behind this success, now enabling us to serve our business customers with the most advanced services and provide our more than 164m viewers at 26 degrees East with an unrivalled level of in-orbit reliability and back-up over the Arab world and way beyond."

ProtoStar I is the first satellite for a new operator – Asia’s ProtoStar telecoms service provider. Built by Space Systems/Loral with its 1300 spacecraft bus, ProtoStar I will provide relay capacity over Asia for direct-to-home (DTH) television broadcasting, as well as broadband communication requirements across the region. ProtoStar I is the 33rd Space Systems/Loral-built payload orbited by Arianespace, and it carries 16 Ku-band and 32 C-band transponders.

“This success is a very important event for our company, and it has been a very long journey - so our thanks and gratitude go to Arianespace for a terrific job with our first satellite,” said Philip Father, President/CEO of Protostar. “Though we are already hard at work on the ProtoStar II and III satellites, the excitement of getting our first bird successfully into orbit is unrivalled. I’m sure I speak for all of our customers and partners when I say how thrilled we all are to have this first important step behind us.”