Eutelsat pair launched

An Ariane rocket delivered the best-possible Christmas present for Paris-based Eutelsat on Saturday night. Hot Bird 9 and W2M were the dual passengers atop the giant Ariane 5 rocket, the 6th Ariane flight of the year.

There was a not-unusual last-minute glitch for Ariane which saw the launch delayed by a nail-biting 45 minutes, although all was well for the 22.35pm GMT launch (7.35pm local French Guiana time). It was also the first time that any satellite operator had launched on the same Ariane rocket.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, Arianespace’s Chairman & CEO, during post-launch comments at the Kourou spaceport, said: “Tonight’s success also underscores the quality of the relationship that unites us with Eutelsat, which entrusted us with the simultaneous launch of two of its satellites – and I want to very warmly thank Giuliano Berretta [the CEO of Eutelsat], for his trust,” he added. “In 2008, we marked the 25th anniversary of our cooperation – with Hot Bird 9 and W2M being the 22nd and 23rd satellites launched by Arianespace for Eutelsat.”

Mr Berretta spoke on a live satellite link from Paris where he was hosting a staff and VIP party for the mission, adding: “I hope everyone admired this absolutely beautiful lift-off of Ariane and the separation of our two spacecraft.” However, Berretta also argued for greater competition – and lower prices - from the launch industry.

Mr Le Gall confirmed that Arianespace has won more business. One order came from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems for the launch of Japan’s BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R; and the other with EADS Astrium to orbit the SSOT (Sistema Satelital para Observación de la Tierra) Earth observation satellite for the government of Chile.

“Thanks to the work of each and every member of the Ariane team, Arianespace remained the preferred launch company in 2008,” Le Gall said. “This year is finishing very well, with our six Ariane 5 missions launching half of all the commercial satellites orbited worldwide in 2008; and Arianespace winning 12 of the total 16 contracts competed this year.”

Arianespace will continue to be busy during 2009, with the first flight in the New Year planned for February 12. This will use another heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA version, and is to carry Eutelsat’s Hot Bird 10 along with the NSS-9 satellite for SES.