Initial assembly of the fourth Ariane 5 for launch by Arianespace in 2012 has been completed at the Spaceport in French Guiana, marking a new milestone in preparations for a mission to loft a dual-passenger payload later in the year. The heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA version is located in the Launcher Integration Building, where it took shape during a multi-step process that began with positioning of the vehicle’s cryogenic core stage over the mobile launch table. The two solid propellant boosters were then mated to the core stage, followed by a “topping off” installation of the cryogenic upper stage and vehicle equipment bay – which were pre-integrated as a single component.
This is the 64th Ariane 5 to take shape at the Spaceport, and will continue the cadence with Arianespace’s workhorse launcher. Designated as Flight VA208 in reference to the 208th flight of an Ariane family vehicle, the launcher is to carry a two-passenger commercial telecommunications satellite payload – the primary mission application for Ariane 5.
The launch will follow Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 flight (VA207), scheduled to lift off on July 5 with the EchoStar XVII high-throughput relay platform for Hughes Network Systems, and the MSG-3 meteorological spacecraft for EUMETSAT (the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites).
The VA207 flight’s Ariane 5 currently is in the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building, ready for integration of the EchoStar XVII and MSG-3 satellites. (Image provided by Arianespace)