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By | October 8, 2007

      Ariane 5 Orbits Intelsat II And Optus D2 Satellites; Further Launches Set

      An Ariane 5 launched two satellites, Intelsat 11 and Optus D2, marking the fourth dual-payload launch this year for Arianespace, the company reported.

      The lifter blasted off from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

      It was the 178th launch in the Ariane series, delivering the two medium-sized spacecraft during 32 minutes of flight. Both payloads were built by Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB] at its Dulles, Va., plant using the STAR 2 platform.

      Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall noted the launch occurred just six months after the Intelsat 11 launch contract was signed.

      There have been 20 consecutive launch successes, according to Le Gall.

      Intelsat 11 rode as the Ariane 5 GS vehicle upper payload, and was released about 28 minutes after liftoff. Once the satellite arrives at the final orbital position of 43 degrees West, it will host Latin American video programmers and the largest DTH (direct-to-home) platform in the region. Weighing approximately 2,450 kg. at liftoff, Intelsat 11 carries a hybrid payload composed of C-band and Ku-band transponders.

      Ariane 5 deployed Optus D2 at 32 minutes after liftoff, and this spacecraft ultimately will be positioned at 152 degrees East. The 2,350-kg. platform will join the fleet of Australian telecommunications provider Optus, enabling development of new business opportunities for the direct-to-home market, new data services, and services bundling.

      Following this latest success, Arianespace continues to hold the largest order book in the launch services industry, representing a three-year workload. "In fact, after this launch, we have in front of us 27 GTO satellites to launch from French Guiana, plus 11 Ariane 5 institutional launches, and 10 Soyuz launches," Le Gall said.

      Arianespace is maintaining its busy launch pace, as two additional Ariane 5 missions are planned before the end of 2007. The next flight is set for Nov. 9, using a heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA to orbit the United Kingdom Skynet 5B military communications satellite and Brazilian STAR ONE C1 telecom platform for direct television, telecommunications and Internet services.

      The Ariane 5 vehicle for the November mission is well advanced in its assembly and integration process, benefiting from Arianespace being able to process two of the workhorse launch vehicles in parallel at Europe’s Spaceport.

      Prior to the Ariane 5 Nov. 9 mission, the Arianespace Starsem affiliate will use a Soyuz vehicle from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to orbit four Globalstar constellation satellites on Oct. 21.

      New International Space Station Crew Launches Wednesday From Baikonur

      A new International Space Station (ISS) crew, Expedition 16, is to launch at 10:21 p.m. ET Wednesday on a Soyuz vehicle from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA announced.

      Commander Peggy Whitson and Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will thus begin a half-year tour in space.

      With them will be spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. He is a Malaysian flying under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

      He will return to Earth with Expedition 15 crew members, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov next week, on Oct. 21. Expedition 15 launched to the station April 7.

      The Expedition 16 Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft is scheduled to dock at the space station a little after 11:47 a.m. ET Friday.?Expedition 16 crew members will be welcomed by the Expedition 15 crew, including astronaut Clay Anderson, the third Expedition 15 crew member. He launched to the station aboard the STS-117 mission of Atlantis June 8. He joined Expedition 15 in progress and will provide Expedition 16 with an experienced flight engineer for the first few days of its increment.

      Whitson, 47, is on her second mission to the station. She served as a flight engineer on the Expedition 5 crew, launching June 5, 2002, and returning to Earth Dec. 7, after almost 185 days in space. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston. She began working for NASA as a research biochemist in 1989 and was selected as an astronaut in 1996.

      Malenchenko, 45, a Russian Air Force colonel, is making his third long-duration spaceflight. He spent 126 days aboard the Russian space station Mir beginning July 1, 1994, and commanded the two-person ISS crew on Expedition 7, spending 185 days in space beginning April 26, 2003. He also was a member of the STS-106 crew of Atlantis on an almost-12-day mission to the station beginning Sept. 8, 2000. He is a graduate of the Kharkov Military Aviation School and the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy.

      Anderson, 48, holds a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University. He was selected as an astronaut in 1998. This is his first spaceflight.

      Astronaut Daniel Tani is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center Oct. 23 aboard the STS-120 flight of Space Shuttle Discovery to replace Anderson as a flight engineer during Expedition 16. Tani, 46, holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and flew on Endeavour’s STS-108 mission in December 2001. He will be making his second spaceflight.

      Two Expedition 17 crew members are expected to arrive next spring to replace Whitson and Malenchenko.

      NASA Spacecraft to Carry Russian Science Instruments To Moon, Mars

      NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos have agreed to fly two Russian scientific instruments on NASA spacecraft journeying to the moon and Mars.

      NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov signed agreements in Moscow last week to add the instruments to two future missions: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled to launch in October next year, and the Mars Science Laboratory, an advanced robotic rover scheduled to launch in 2009.

      Russia’s Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will search for evidence of water ice and help understand astronauts’ exposure to radiation during future trips to the moon. The instrument will map concentrations of hydrogen that may be found on and just beneath the lunar surface.

      The Roscosmos Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory will measure hydrogen to analyze neutrons interacting with the Martian surface. The principal investigator for both instruments is Igor Mitrofanov of the Institute for Space Research of the Russian Academy of Science.

      "Russia’s contribution to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Science Laboratory missions continues a rich and long-standing tradition of cooperation between NASA and Russia for scientific research in space," Griffin said. "The Institute for Space Research has a track record of delivering excellent instrumentation, and we are delighted to have international participation on these missions to explore the moon and send a robotic laboratory to Mars."

      The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will circle the moon for at least a year, obtaining measurements necessary to identify future robotic and human landing sites. It also will look for potential lunar resources and document aspects of the lunar radiation environment.

      Separately, the Mars Science Laboratory rover is a mobile research platform that will explore a local region of the Martian surface as a potential habitat for past or present life. The rover will carry a suite of highly capable analytic and remote sensing instruments to investigate planetary processes that influence habitability, including the role of water.

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