Arianespace plans to launch six boosters before the end of the year in an effort to reduce the backlog of launches caused by delays to deliveries of several communications satellites earlier this year.

The next mission is due on 24 September, involving the launch of a Telstar 7 satellite by an Ariane 44LP. If all goes to schedule, the European commercial launcher company plans an ambitious launch programme in the run-up to next year. An Orion 2 launch is set for 15 October on another 44LP. Mid-November has been earmarked for launch of a GE4 or Galaxy 11 by either a 44LP or 44L, respectively. Arianespace will launch the French Helios 1B military reconnaissance satellite on an Ariane 40 in late November. The payload is believed to be a 1m-resolution camera.

Ariane 504 is due to launch the European Space Agency's X-Ray MultiMirror telescope in mid-December. The year will end with the launch of either Galaxy 11 or GE 4 in late December. Arianespace has made just three flights this year, two in the first quarter and the most recent on 4 September.

The main reason for the delays was defects in batches of solar cells on satellite arrays. Cells on the arrays on the Astra 2B, Asiastar and K-TV 1 satellites were discovered to have been degraded during assembly, possibly caused by a non-cured cell coating material.

The problem came to light when Eutelsat's Hot Bird 5 went into orbit with the defective cells, causing it to lose electrical power, which may force the European communications satellite operator to shut down some transponders.

Matra Marconi Space, the satellite's manufacturer, has still not solved the problem and the three satellites are grounded while a decision on whether to replace the cells - there are thousands on each array - or to change the whole array is made.

Source: Flight International