The seventh and last Ariane 5 ECA launch of this year occured at 2149 GMT on 19 December from Kourou in French Guiana. The flight was also the 10th Arianespace-operated flight from the Guiana Space Centre this year with two Soyuz launches and a single Vega launch being the others. Aboard the rocket were two communications satellites heading for Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) via a transfer orbit: the 4,800kg Skynet 5D communications satelllite wasbeing launched for Astrium who act as the operator for the UK Ministry of Defence; and the 2,935kg communications Mexsat 3 (Mexsat Bicentario) which being launched for the government of Mexico.
Ariane 5 ECA launches Skynet 5D and Mexsat 3. Courtesy: Arianespace
Comment by David Todd: While its launch provider competitors are able to undercut its prices, when it comes to ensuring satellites actually get into the correct orbit, Arianespace’s Ariane 5 remains well ahead of the rest. While its Ariane 5 rocket family registered its 53rd launch success in a row, both Proton and the Falcon 9 had launch failures or partial launch failures this year. More importantly for Arianespace, with seven Ariane 5 launches flown, its increased flight rate is likely to allow Arianespace to actually make a significant “profit” this year. For several years, the Ariane 5′s low flight rate has meant that Arianespace has required cash bailouts from the European Space Agency.