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Kourou, French Guiana (ESA) Nov 15, 2012
The fourth spacecraft to be orbited by Arianespace for the Skynet 5 military satellite constellation has been delivered to French Guiana, moving preparations into a new phase for a mid-December dual-passenger Ariane 5 mission.
Skynet 5D arrived Wednesday aboard a chartered Antonov An-124 cargo jetliner, which touched down at Felix Eboue Airport near the capital city of Cayenne. It was then readied for the road trip to the Spaceport, where this satellite will start pre-launch checkout.
Built by the Astrium division of EADS, Skynet 5D joins three other satellites in this series to provide secure voice and data communications for military operations in both peacekeeping and battlefield conditions. It follows the previous Skynet 5 satellites launched by Arianespace: Skynet 5C in June 2008; Skynet 5B in November 2007; and Skynet 5A in March 2007.
These fully-hardened, advanced spacecraft are among the most powerful military X-Band satellites launched to date by any nation, and allow high data rates to be handled by small ground terminals - including those providing "first-in" capability for disaster and rescue operations, as well as military missions.
Skynet system users include the British armed forces, along with other military forces and government agencies, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Communications services from the Skynet 5 satellite constellation are procured by the U.K. Ministry of Defense under terms of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract with Paradigm Secure Communications - an Astrium subsidiary.
The upcoming launch of Skynet 5D from French Guiana underscores Arianespace's ability to accommodate defense and security payloads at the Spaceport in conditions that meet the strictest standards - including those of NATO. To date, Arianespace has performed a total of 42 national security mission launches at a 100 percent success rate.
Joining Skynet 5D on the mid-December dual-passenger Ariane 5 mission - designated Flight VA211 in the company's launcher family numbering system - is the Mexsat 3 satellite. This will be Arianespace's seventh Ariane 5 launch in 2012.
Read the latest in Military Space Communications Technology at SpaceWar.com
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