Arianespace successfully launched Eutelsat's W1 communications satellite on an Ariane 44P booster on flight V132 from Kourou on 6 September. The satellite was placed into a 300 x 35,942km (186 x 22,300 mile) geostationary transfer orbit compared with the published target orbit of 200km by 35,941km.

The mission was the 56th consecutive successful Ariane 4 launch and the sixth launch by the European company this year.

The Astrium-built 3,250kg (7,160lb) Eurostar 2000 Plus satellite, equipped with 28 Ku-band transponders, is a long-awaited addition at an orbital slot at 10°E that is of "strategic importance", says Eutelsat, taking over the services provided by Eutelsat 2 F4.

The W1 increases Eutelsat's Ku-band satellite fleet to 18. With its coverage of southern Africa, W1 becomes the third Eutelsat satellite to provide services to the southern hemisphere.

It is also the third Eutelsat satellite to be launched in five months, and there are plans for a further three in 2001, including Eurobird, which is an Ariane launch. Eutelsat has awarded Arianespace two more satellite launches, bringing to 16 the number launched by the European company.

Five new Eutelsat satellites are being built for launch in 2002. Arianespace was to have launched an Ariane 5G booster from Kourou on 15 September, on the delayed flight V130, carrying Astra 2G and GE-7 satellites.

V133 will be launched on 28 September, carrying the EuropeStar FM1 communications satellite aboard a 44LP model.

Arianespace has an backlog of 39 satellites to be launched in addition to nine Automatic Transfer Vehicle Ariane 5 launches to the International Space Station.

The Ariane 4 fleet will be retired in 2003 after a 15-year career.

• The first Russian Proton DM booster will be launched in October or November. The vehicle will be equipped with digital flight control, more efficient propellant systems and a more powerful set of RD-53 first stage engines, increasing engine thrust by 9t. This will allow it to place 22t into low earth orbit, compared to the present 20t capability. The Proton will also be equipped with the new Breeze upper stage, which flew on a standard Proton K vehicle in May.

Source: Flight International