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Arianespace launches for first time since French Guiana protests ended

VA236 Ariane 5 Arianespace

KOUROU — European launch provider Arianespace on May 4 completed its first launch since the end of French Guiana’s five-week protest during which demonstrators seeking France’s attention blocked access to the company’s spaceport.

The mission, dubbed VA236, orbited two telecommunications satellites, one for Brazil and one for South Korea, on an Ariane 5 rocket from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

Brazil’s 5,700-kilogram Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications satellite, or SGDC, separated first from the rocket, followed by the 3,700-kilogram Koreasat-7 for KTSat, the satellite arm of Korean telecom company KT Corp. Thales Alenia Space of France built both satellites.

The launch marks the return to flight for Arianespace, which resumed launching nine days after France signed the Accord de Guyane, an agreement that will see increased financial aid sent to the French colony. The lack of parity between standards of living in France and French Guiana became a sore point for the territory, prompting the protests that blockaded the spaceport — a power move that succeeded in getting France’s attention.

Seeking to complete 12 launches this year as originally planned, Arianespace shifted the launches of two other missions — the Soyuz launch of  SES-15, and the Ariane 5 dual launch of ViaSat-2 and Eutelsat-172b — to May 18 and June 1, respectively. Arianespace had downtime in its schedule for those two months, but is now using them to launch satellites originally planned for April.

The Ariane 5 launch eases the stress off of Arianespace and its customers, several of which evacuated French Guiana during the unrest.

Brazil’s SGDC satellite, carries a payload of 50 Ka-band spot beams for broadband services focused on bridging the digital divide in the country, and seven X-band transponders for the Ministry of Defense. The revelation by Edward Snowden in 2013 of the U.S. government snooping on Brazil’s communications, along with those of several other nations, contributed substantially to Brazil’s decision to have its own satellite for secure domestic communications. SGDC has a design life of 18 years, about three years longer than the average target, though it is not unheard of for satellites to function past their nominal 15-year life.

Visiona Tecnologia Espacial, a joint venture formed in 2013 between aircraft manufacturer Embraer and telecommunications company Telebras, ordered the satellite with the stipulation that Thales Alenia Space assist in training Brazilian engineers as part of a technology absorption program organized by the Brazilian Space Agency. Thales Alenia Space trained 30 Brazilian engineers in space industry practices during the construction of the SGDC satellite.

For KTSat, Koreasat-7 is the tip of the spear for the company’s expansion into other regional markets in South and Southeast Asia. The 30-transponder Ka- and Ku-band satellite covers South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and India, and has an expected lifespan of more than 15 years. The operator’s has another satellite Koreasat-5A, also from Thales Alenia Space, that is currently being integrated ahead of a SpaceX launch later this year. KTSat operates three other satellites today: Koreasat-5, which launched in 2006, Koreasat-6, which launched in 2010, and Koreasat-8, which launched in 2014.

SpaceNews.com

Source: Space News

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Arianespace launches for first time since French Guiana protests ended

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