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What have these dates got in common?
August 2005, November 2005, May 2006, May 2007, November 2007, July 2009, April 2011, August 2012, February 2013, June 2016, August 2016, June 2017, October 2021.
Answer: they are all dates of missions where Ariane 5 broke its own record for telecommunications satellite delivery performance, either for single or dual launch performance. (This is not an exhaustive list!)
Ariane 5’s telecommunications satellite payload capacity consistently augmented from around 8 tons to 11.2 tons. Sometimes it smashed its own record at an interval of just months – witness an improvement of 135kg in six months between the launches of August 2012 (Flight VA208, carrying Intelsat 20 and HYLAS 2) and of February 2013 (Flight VA212, with Amazonas 3 and Azerspace-1/Africasat-1a). Or even on consecutive launches, as with Flight VA230 in June 2016 (EchoStar XVIII and BRISat) at 10,730kg, followed by an performance increase of 35kg only nine weeks later on the very next mission, in August 2016 (Flight VA232 lofting two satellites for Intelsat).
Ariane 5, like its predecessors, was largely designed to be able to provide a response to the permanently-changing crucial telecommunications satellite market.
More than 80% of Ariane 5’s payloads were telecommunications satellites, placed in orbit for operators all over the world, including many of the major national and international players.
A telecommunications satellite launch is often referred to as a ‘standard’ or ‘baseline’ mission, and usually does not receive the same level of media attention as the more ‘exciting’ stand-alone launches of high-profile space exploration spacecraft, such as Bepi-Colombo or James Webb, but these telecoms-launching missions, however ‘workaday’ they might be, are always subject to the same degree of attention, precision and expertise on the part of the ArianeGroup teams in their preparation and execution.
Ariane 5’s telecommunication satellite launches are the backbone of the launcher’s business and its world-leading success.
Ariane‘s flight-on-flight performance, underpinned by continuous improvements hard-wired into the launcher programme to keep ahead of the game as the market develops, has established its well-merited name as the world’s most reliable launcher – and is the reason that customers continued to entrust their satellites to its care.
Uniquely, from the outset Ariane 5 offered customers an unprecedented degree of modularity, using a novel concept, a range of structures designed for different mission types – Speltra (external triple launch structure), Sylda (integrated dual launch structure), ASAP (auxiliary payloads structure) – so that the same launcher could be sufficiently flexible and efficient to deliver all kinds of missions, accommodating for example two major satellites, or several satellites, on the same launch.
Throughout its lifetime, Ariane 5 has been a stalwart, trustworthy partner for telecommunications satellite operators all over the world for efficient delivery of the connectivity revolution that we benefit from today. Just by doing its job, Ariane 5 has radically changed life on Earth.