July 09, 2012
The third in a series of advanced European weather satellites and the U.S. EchoStar 17 telecommunications satellite soared into an elliptical transfer orbit July 5, rising in tandem atop an Ariane 5 from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, each bound for a geosynchronous perch.
The liftoff, at 5:36 p.m. EDT (23:36 CEST), had been postponed from June 19 for checks of the EchoStar 17, following solar array deployment difficulties experienced by the Intelsat-19 spacecraft lofted May 31 aboard a Sea Launch rocket. Both communications spacecraft employ similar solar array deployment mechanisms provided by the U.S. satellite maker Space Systems/Loral.
The Ariane 5’s second stage deployed EchoStar 17 on schedule approximately 27 min. after liftoff, and the Meteosat Second Generation-3 (MSG-3) was released at 34 min.
MSG-3, developed for the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat) by the European Space Agency and a Thales Alenia Space-led industry consortium, is destined for redesignation as Meteosat-10 and a geosynchronous slot at 0 deg. latitude over the Gulf of Guinea. There, it will join Meteosat-9, replacing the decade-old Meteosat-8 backup, as the chief weather sentries for the European and African continents.
In addition to monitoring changing cloud formation and water vapor levels through continuous 3-D atmospheric profiling, the advanced European weather satellite series monitors changes in Earth and solar radiation levels for climate change researchers and provides a search-and-rescue communications link.
After a 10-day checkout period, control of MSG-3 will transition from ESA’s European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, to Eumetsat’s control center, also in Darmstadt, for commissioning.
A final second-generation weather sentry in the series, MSG-4, is scheduled for launch in 2015. ESA and Eumetsat are at work on a follow-on generation of weather spacecraft to monitor Europe and Africa.
EchoStar XVII was developed for Hughes Network Systems, LLC, of Germantown, Md., a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., of Englewood, Colo., to provide high-speed Internet services to government, commercial and individual users across North America via Ka-band spot beam technology.