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Arianespace lofts three spacecraft in first Ariane 5 launch since start of pandemic

Arianespace on Aug. 15 launched two communications satellites and a satellite servicer on an Ariane 5 rocket, completing the company’s first launch since the reopening of the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. 

Ariane 5 lifted off at 6:04 p.m. Eastern and deployed the spacecraft into geostationary transfer orbits over the course of 48 minutes. The launch was delayed two weeks to replace a problematic sensor on the rocket’s first stage, and again by a day because of upper level winds. Weather introduced a 34-minute delay prior to liftoff.  

The launch is Arianespace’s first from the Guiana Space Center in six months, and first overall in five months1.  

“Arianespace is delighted to have served two loyal customers – Intelsat and B-SAT – as well as Northrop Grumman's subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC,” declared Stéphane Israël, the Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “As part of this mission, three satellites were deployed by the most powerful Ariane 5 ever launched, thus demonstrating the competitiveness of our launch solutions and our capability for continuous innovation."

The Galaxy 30 UHD video distribution/broadcast and broadband satellite, built for global network operator Intelsat, will cover North America. BSAT-4b will be used for Ultra-High-Definition (UHD, 4K and 8K) direct-to-home television broadcasting across Japan, in conjunction with its twin, BSAT-4a, launched by Arianespace in 2017.

The Arianespace relationship with satellite operators Intelsat and B-SAT has continued for several decades, and has grown stronger over time. Since 1983 – the date of the first mission for Intelsat – Arianespace has launched 61 satellites on behalf of this global operator. For BSAT, the Japanese operator has entrusted Arianespace with the launch of its entire fleet – a total of 10 satellites. Flight VA253’s third passenger, the Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2), is a satellite servicing vehicle designed to dock with satellites in orbit. It will provide life extension services. MEV-2's first customer will be the Intelsat 10-02 satellite, which has been in service in geostationary orbit since 2004 and will have its operational life extended by five years. The triple-payload launch performed with Flight VA253 to orbit two telecommunications satellites and a servicing spacecraft is a first for Ariane 5.

Another important point: Flight VA253 utilized the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, developed and produced by ArianeGroup, which has increased its payload capacity by 85 kg. for this flight with the introduction of a new vehicle equipment bay (VEB) – bringing total capacity for the satellite payloads to 10,200 kg. on missions to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

This Ariane 5 launcher is thereby the most powerful ever operated by Arianespace, marking the culmination of the continuous improvement program for Ariane 5’s performance and competitiveness that was implemented in 2016 by ArianeGroup for the benefit of Arianespace. It has provided a performance gain 300 kg., which continues to be available for customers on Ariane 5 missions planned until the end of the launcher’s operation.

The Ariane 5 launcher is a joint European government-industry program. Arianespace is responsible for marketing and operating Ariane 5 launches from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, with support from teams of the French space agency (CNES) and the European Space Agency (ESA) – which is responsible for the Ariane programs. All industrial activities relating to Ariane 5 are managed by ArianeGroup. This includes the equipment and structures, the manufacturing of engines, integration of the various stages, followed by integration of the complete launcher in French Guiana before its delivery to Arianespace for liftoff.



Arianespace has rescheduled the 16th flight for Vega within a launch window from September 1 to September 4, with a more than 90% probability of the launch going ahead. Flight VV16 has been pushed back several times, notably due to the persistence of exceptionally unfavorable winds aloft at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. With this mission, Arianespace is underscoring its comprehensive range of innovative and competitive services to address the nano- and microsatellite market sub-segment, serving both institutional and commercial needs.

For further information, download the Flight VV16 Launch Kit by clicking here: To watch a live, high-speed online transmission of the launch (including commentary in French and English), go to or to on September 1, 2020, beginning 15 minutes before liftoff.


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