Preparations for Arianespace's initial Ariane 5 launch of 2009 are in full swing following the delivery of SES NEW SKIES' NSS-9 telecommunications satellite to French Guiana and the fueling of the mission's other primary passenger - HOT BIRD 10 for Eutelsat.

NSS-9 arrived last Friday aboard an Antonov An-124 cargo jetliner and was transferred by road to the Spaceport.

After NSS-9's deployment on February 12 mission, the satellite will be positioned at an orbital location of 183 degrees East .

Manufactured by Orbital Sciences Corporation of the United States using its Star 2 satellite bus, NSS-9 will have a liftoff mass of 2,230 kg. It is designed for a minimum service life of 15 years .

This spacecraft carries 44 active C-band transponders, and features three beams that can interconnect on a transponder-by-transponder basis .

NSS-9 will be launched together HOT BIRD 10, which was loaded ton January 19 with its propellant . HOT BIRD 10 will be located at 13 degrees East . The HOT BIRD 10 platform is based on EADS Astrium's Eurostar 3000 spacecraft bus, and is identical to the HOT BIRD 9 relay platform successfully orbited by Ariane 5's year-ending 2008 launch on December 20.

Also to be included with HOT BIRD 10 and NSS-9 on the upcoming Ariane 5 flight are two small Spirale satellites, which are demonstrators for a French defense space-based optical early warning system.

Arianespace is targeting six to eight Ariane 5 missions in 2009, continuing its sustained flight rate to meet launch services needs of the company's growing international customer base.