On July 30, 2021, Ariane 5, a European heavy-lift space launch vehicle developed and operated by Arianespace for the European Space Agency, successfully launched its first flight in nearly a year. The aim of the mission is to deploy a pair of geostationary communications satellites for commercial operators in Brazil and France.
One of the satellites, called the Star One D2, will be operated by Embratel, a Brazilian telecommunications company. The Star One D2 will give Embratel the ability to expand its broadband coverage to new regions in Central and South America, supply Internet access to those in under-serviced areas, and increase X-band payload for government use in the Atlantic region.
The second satellite, named Eutelsat Quantum, which was developed as part of an ESA partnership with satellite operator Eutelsat and major manufacturer Airbus, has an active antenna, a first for the European commercial telecommunications industry. This revolutionary technology accommodates the new generation of fully digital payloads, allowing the operator to modify the coverage, frequencies and power of their spacecraft. Eutelsat Quantum is the first commercial, fully flexible software-defined satellite in the world.
Arianespace announced liftoff at 22:00 BST on July 30, 2021 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Both spacecraft were deployed as planned less than 40 minutes after takeoff.
Because the satellite is reprogrammable while in orbit, it can react to changing data and security demands over an expected period 15 years. Its beams can be directed to move in near real time to provide information to passengers on moving ships or aircraft. The beams can also be regulated to provide more data as demand increases. The satellite can detect and characterize any fraudulent emissions, allowing a dynamic response to accidental or intentional interference.
This launch was an essential test of the Ariane 5 rocket before the flight to send the James Webb Space Telescope to its observation post over 1,6 million kilometers from Earth. The European Space Agency is providing the launch for JWST, a joint program between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency, costing more than $10 billion.