ARIANESPACE HAS signed four new launch contracts, bringing to 40 the number of satellites booked to be launched, with a total value of $2 billion. The new payloads are Malaysia's Measat 2; Thailand's Thaicom 3; Indonesia's Indostar 1; and Europe's Helios 1B reconnaissance satellite.

Ariane Flight V74, carrying the Hughes DirecTV DBS 3 satellite aboard an Ariane 42P vehicle, was launched successfully on 10 June. Flight V75, carrying the Helios 1A reconnaissance satellite and two sub-satellites, the French Cerise and Spain's Umpsat, is scheduled for 7 July. Arianespace plans to accelerate the rate at its next 17 launches, reaching the V92 by December 1996.

The maiden flight of the Ariane 5 has been scheduled for 17 January 1996. The decision follows a successful full-duration, 590s, test firing of the Vulcain first-stage engine in flight configuration, at Kourou, French Guiana, on 16 June. Earlier, two aborts were forced by computer-programming errors. Five more tests are planned.

The company has also signed ten contracts with seven European companies, worth $2.5 billion, for the production of 14 Ariane 5 boosters, covering launches to the year 2000, and launch and maintenance operations at Kourou. A second contract for 50 more Ariane 5s will be signed in 1998.

The Intelsat 709 communications satellite, originally to have been flown, aboard an Ariane 4 vehicle, has been switched to the second demonstration flight of the Ariane 5, in 1996.

The flight, offered at a bargain price of $48 million, will give the European Space Agency, which funds the Ariane 5, the opportunity to fly a "representative payload as part of the demonstration programme", says the agency. Arianespace will take over commercial operations of the Ariane 5 on flight 3, with the PanAmSat 6 as the payload.


Source: Flight International