Eleven Flights In 2012 Boosted 165-Thousand Pounds Into Orbit
Arianespace says it achieved an a record-breaking year of activity during 2012, employing its complete launcher family to perform 10 total flights from the Spaceport in French Guiana along with a Soyuz mission from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. These 11 flights lofted a cumulative payload weight of some 165,000 pounds, the most ever for Arianespace in a single calendar year, and were composed of seven Ariane 5 missions, three Soyuz launches and one Vega liftoff. The mass of primary and secondary passengers accommodated on these flights ranged from 20 metric tons to just 2.2 pounds.
In operations at the Spaceport during the past 12 months, Arianespace’s Ariane 5 and Soyuz vehicles carried 11 civil and military telecommunications spacecraft for its worldwide customers, launched Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to service the International Space Station, delivered two In-Orbit Validation platforms for the European Galileo satellite navigation constellation, lofted Europe’s MSG-3 meteorological platform, and orbited the Pléiades 1B optical imaging satellite for French and European defense ministries.
Vega’s year-opening historic inaugural mission from French Guiana demonstrated this new launcher’s flexibility by carrying a payload of nine spacecraft: the Italian LARES laser relativity satellite, as well as the ALMASat-1 technology microsatellite demonstrator and seven small CubeSats developed by more than 250 university students from six different countries.
Arianespace milestones during the 2012 Spaceport mission activity included Ariane 5’s heaviest-ever payload: the ATV Edoardo Amaldi, weighing more than 20,000 kg. on its flight in March; along with the 50th consecutive success for this heavy-lift workhorse launcher, achieved in August – subsequently increasing to 53 by year-end, underscoring a reliability level that a benchmark in the commercial launch services sector.
In another highpoint, Arianespace surpassed its 300th mark for the total combined number of primary satellite passengers launched from French Guiana; a landmark that was attained in May. This count did not include some 50 additional auxiliary or secondary payloads accommodated on the company’s various missions, and it was further increased by Arianespace’s launches during the subsequent months of 2012.
Adding to Arianespace’s activity during the year was a Soyuz mission performed at Baikonur Cosmodrome by its Euro-Russian Starsem subsidiary, which carried the European Metop-B meteorological satellite.