Tim Furniss/LONDON

Arianespace is maintaining its lead in the commercial launcher market with contracts to launch three more satellites, bringing to 43 the number of satellites on its orderbook, worth $3.5 billion. The contracts push Arianespace's satellite launch orders past 200 since it was created in 1980.

The three new satellites are: India's Insat 3A, scheduled for launch in mid-2000 aboard an Ariane 4 or 5, a Hughes-built PanAmSat spacecraft also destined for a launch in 2000 on an Ariane 4 or 5 and the Space Systems/Loral Telstar 7 for launch on an Ariane 4 in the third quarter of this year.

Arianespace has launched seven Insats and already has Insat 3B on its manifest. Insat 3A, designed and built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore for the Indian Government, will provide a range of telecommunications and meteorological services, primarily for India. It will be positioned at 83í east over the Indian Ocean.

Three other PanAmSat craft are on the company's orderbook and Arianespace has already launched 13. The latest, weighing 3,600kg (7,920lb) at lift-off, will carry 48 Ku-band transponders.

Telstar 7 will be launched later this year on an Ariane 4, after the company's defection from ILS International Launch Services. The Telstar 7 was due to be launched on the first Atlas IIIA booster, but the launch was delayed after concerns about RL-10 upper stage engine failures this year.

The Ariane launch slot for Telstar 7 was originally taken by a Loral booking for four Globalstar satellites, since cancelled.

Meanwhile, V118 was launched from Kourou, French Guiana, on 12 August - the first Ariane launch since April. It carried Indonesia's Lockheed Martin-built Telekom 1 communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. The Ariane 42P launch was the 45th consecutive Ariane 4 flight.

Another 42P is scheduled for launch on 1 September on flight V120 of the Koreasat 3 spacecraft. Six more launches are planned to catch up with the schedule after satellite manufacturing delays halted deliveries.

These include the V119 flight of the first fully fledged commercial Ariane 5, delayed to December. The V119 will carry the European Space Agency's 4,000kg X-ray Multi Mirror telescope.

• Saab Ericsson has been awarded a $4.83 million contract by Matra Marconi Space to design and build the computer system for the European Space Agency's Ariane 5-launched Automatic Transfer Vehicle for logistics missions to the International Space Station.

Source: Flight International