Europe launches 100th Ariane mission
A previous Ariane launch: The first rocket of its kind was launched in 1979
KOUROU, French Guiana (Reuters) -- Western Europe's
100th Ariane rocket has placed a communications satellite in orbit after a textbook launch from equatorial French Guiana.
The Ariane 44LP rocket, equipped with two liquid and two
solid strap-on boosters, blasted off at 2:59 a.m. (0559 GMT) on Sunday from the European Space Agency (ESA) launch centre in Kourou,
French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.
The rocket flew through a deck of low cloud and was visible
from the ground for over two minutes.
The launch was initially planned for Saturday, but bad
weather delayed the mission for 24 hours.
Twenty-one minutes after launch, space officials said the
Europe+Star-1 satellite had separated from the rocket.
satellite will provide video and telecommunications services for
Europe, the Middle East, Southern Africa, the Indian
subcontinent and South-East Asia.
Sunday's mission was the 100th launch of an Ariane-4 rocket
and its 58th consecutive successful flight.
The spacecraft is owned by the newly created telecoms
operator Europe+Star UK, Ltd, a joint venture company created
between France's Alcatel SpaceCom and Loral Space &
Communications, based in California.
Company officials were not available to give the cost of the
mission. Specialists estimated the cost of the satellite, launch
and insurance at over $250 million.
Europe+Star's prime contractor was Alcatel Space Industries
with major subcontracting from Space Systems/Loral in
California. It weighed 4.1 tonnes (9,000 lb) at launch and is
designed to operate in geostationary orbit for 15 years.
This was the 134th mission for Ariane, whose career began in
1979 with the Ariane-1 rocket.
Ariane-4 was put into service in 1988 and has failed only
three times. It is built in six different versions for launches
of communications satellite payloads of up to five tonnes.
"In the last six years Ariane-4 holds the record for
reliability," Jacques Rossignol, Arianespace Director General,
The current rocket series is planned to be phased out of
service after 17 more flights and will be replaced by the new
generation Ariane-5 in 2003. Ariane-5 has already flown six
missions, five of them successfully.
Arianespace, the Paris-based company that launches and
markets Ariane rockets, said after the launch it had firm orders
to launch 40 heavy satellites and nine other payloads worth an
estimated $3.5 billion.
During the last three years the company has been plagued by
launch delays, mostly on account of the late delivery of
Reuters contributed to this report.
European Space Agency
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