Ariane 5 lifts off from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone on the daytime mission that lofted the DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 satellite payloads.(

Ariane 5 Successfully Lofts ISRO GSAT-16, DIRECTV-14 Satellites into Orbit

India’s advanced communications satellite GSAT-16 was carried into orbit by an European Ariane 5 rocket, that blasted off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on Saturday at 20:40 GMT, alongwith the other passenger DIRECTV-14 of the US.

This is also a landmark for Arianespace for achieving a record combined payload mass orbited from French Guiana in a single year: 74.3 tons – eclipsing the previous mark set by the company in 2012, Arianespace said. Indian PM Narendra Modi congratulated ISRO scientists and described the communication satellite as a major asset for India’s space programme.

In an another tweet, Information and Broadcasting Minister of State Rajyavardhan Rathore said, “Congratulations. India launches GSAT-16 satellite. Will boost public & private TV and radio services, large-scale Internet & tele operations.”

The launch, delayed by two days from the original schedule due to bad weather, finally took off on Saturday at 20.40 GMT, Arianespace’s 6th launch this year.

GSAT 16, weighing 3,181.6 kg, was designed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and it carries 48 transponders — automatic receivers and transmitters for communication and broadcast of signals.

The GSAT-16 is equipped with Ku and C-band transponders to boost telecommunication transmissions on the Indian subcontinent, Arianespace said.

The satellite is the 11th among GSAT series and the 24th geo-stationary communication satellite with a lifespan of 12 years. “GSAT-16 will replace the INSAT-3E, which expired in April,” ISRO director S. Shiva Kumar said. “And we do hope in the years to come that many more opportunities to work together will exist for us.”

The satellite was placed at 55 degrees east over India in a geo-stationary orbit, about 36,000 km above the earth, with 168 transponders in the C, extended C and Ku-bands, the INSAT and GSAT series of satellites to provide telecommunication, television broadcasting, weather forecasting, disaster warning and search and rescue operations.

India had to procure Ariane rockets as its heavy communication satellites in geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) require heavier rockets to carry 3-tonne range satellite. Once its GSLV-Mark III rocket is successfully experimented in the third week of this month, ISRO can send these heavyloads on its own.

ISRO has been a long-standing customer of Arianespace, which has its heavy-lift workhorse’s string of consecutive successes to 63. The mission – designated Flight VA221 in Arianespace’s numbering system – also lofted DIRECTV-14 for operator DIRECTV, along with the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) GSAT-16.

The DIRECTV-14 spacecraft was deployed first in the flight sequence, separating from Ariane 5 nearly 28 minutes after liftoff, followed four minutes later by its GSAT-16 co-passenger.

“This dual mission to geostationary transfer orbit is the very symbol of Arianespace’s capacity to address the entire span of satellite communications operators,” said Stéphane Israël, the company’s Chairman and CEO, in post-launch comments at the Spaceport.

The company lofted DIRECTV’s first satellite in 1993 (DIRECTV-1 using an Ariane 4 version), and in total has orbited seven spacecraft for this operator – including DIRECTV-14, which also represents the 46th SSL-built (Space Systems/Loral) payload to be launched by Arianespace.

“Arianespace and DIRECTV started their cooperation 21 years ago and met with many successes together,” said Arianespace’s Israël. “With three more DIRECTV satellites lining up in our order book, this win-win relationship will enable to meet with many more in the future.”

Speaking in French, Phil Goswitz, DIRECTV’s Senior Vice President – Space Systems & Communications, thanked Arianespace for a “superb launch,” adding that Ariane 5 is “the best and most reliable launcher in the world.”

During his follow-on comments in English, Goswitz noted that DIRECTV has always made history through its relationship with Arianespace, beginning with the orbiting of its first satellite in December 1993 on an Ariane 4 vehicle, and continuing with launches of DIRECTV’s industry-leading relay platforms.

To operate from an orbital location of 99 deg. West, DIRECTV-14 is a 20-kilowatt class Ka-band and reverse-band digital broadcast satellite that will deliver Ultra HD and other new consumer services for DIRECTV. It is based on the SSL 1300 spacecraft platform with a liftoff mass of approximately 6,300 kg., and is to provide service for users across the U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Puerto Rico.

Ariane 5 is shown ready for its liftoff at the Spaceport in French Guiana.(Photo: Arianespace)

Ariane 5 is shown ready for its liftoff at the Spaceport in French Guiana.(Photo: Arianespace)

ISRO has been an Arianespace customer for 33 years, beginning with the Ariane 1 launch of its APPLE spacecraft in 1981. Since then, 17 more of the Indian space agency’s payloads have been launched – capped off with the successful deployment of GSAT-16 today.

“When referring to our friends of ISRO, I can think of no better word than ‘faithful,” added Israël. “In 33 years of cooperation, Arianespace has indeed orbited all Indian geostationary satellites which were not assigned to domestic vehicles.”

Today’s daytime launch with DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 by Ariane 5’s orbital parameters at injection of its cryogenic upper stage were:

  • Perigee: 249.5 km. for a target of 249.5 km.
  • Apogee: 35,930 km. for a target of 35,925 km.
  • Inclination: 5.99 deg. for a target of 6.00 deg.

Arianespace’s next mission will be the December 18 flight of a medium-lift Soyuz from French Guiana, which will deploy the next four connectivity satellites for operator O3b Networks.

GSAT-15 is approved by the Government on July 17, 2013. It will carry 24 Ku-band transponders and a GAGAN (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation) payload. GSAT-15 spacecraft will provide replacement for the Ku-band capacity of INSAT-3A and INSAT-4B spacecrafts to augment and support the existing DTH and VSAT services in the country. The GAGAN payload of GSAT-I5 will meet the in-orbit redundancy requirement for Safety of Life (SOL) operations benefiting the civil aviation services in the country.
GSAT-16 is approved by the Government on July 17, 2013. It will carry 48 transponders in C-band, Ku-band and Upper Extended C-bands. GSAT-16 spacecraft will provide replacement for the INSAT-3E spacecraft and will also augment the C and Upper Extended C-band capacity. The spacecraft will be utilized in augmenting and supporting the existing telecommunication, television, VSAT and other satellite based services in the country.
The Government has approved a budgetary support of 859.50 Crores including a foreign exchange component of 622.50 Crores for realization of GSAT-15 spacecraft project including launch services and insurance. The Government has approved a budgetary support of 865.50 Crores including a foreign exchange component of 628 Crores for realization of GSAT-16 spacecraft project including launch services and insurance.
GSAT-15 is targeted to be launched in mid -2015 and GSAT-16 is scheduled to be launched in 2014-15.

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