A flawless launch for Ariane 5 in French Guiana, watched by Julian Clover
I’ve always wanted to sit in at mission control during the launch of a satellite. At the launch of Thor 6 from the Ariane facility in Kourou, French Guiana I came pretty close. Rather than the outdoor vantage point known as Toucan I opted for the comfort of Jupiter.
From seats that felt as if you were in a contemporary arts theatre we sat and watched the engineers from Ariane, Telenor and SES, whose NSS 12 was the co-passenger on the Ariane 5 rocket. Behind a glass screen one wondered at times who was watching who.
When the rocket came close to launch we all rushed out to the viewing platform, exiting stage right, and largely oblivious to the fact the countdown might have stopped and we would have been stuck outside for the unusually long launch window.
While NSS 12 was the largest satellite to have been launched by the group, weighing in at 5,620 kg compared to the Thor’s 3,050-kg, there is no doubt of the importance of the Norwegian satellite. Slowly but surely the company has managed to carve itself a niche in Central and East Europe, supplementing its Scandinavian business, which arguably has little room left for growth. 20 of the available 36 transponders on Thor 6
The key client on Thor 6 will be UPC Direct, which is migrating from Astra early in 2010. Digi TV, Mytv/Digital Fly and UPC’s Focus Sat are already there as is a bouquet of channels uplinked from the Telenor facility in Bulgaria. The relationship with fellow satellite operator works well, and although other Intelsat satellites can be received in Europe, one degree West that is also home to its own Intelsat 10-02 satellite is the position with which it is most clearly identified in Europe.
Intelsat has 10 transponders that have been leased from Telenor and will be sold to its own client. For the example the Ukraine’s Mytv will use Intelsat capacity, though such is the co-operation with Telenor its test transmissions have been running on Telenor’s Thor 3, though an early move to Thor 6 is anticipated.