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The BBC's Tom Metcalfe
"Despite early problems...Europe has become a commercial leader in space transport"
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Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Textbook launch for Ariane
Ariane lifts off
Ariane 4 has been in service since 1988
An Ariane rocket has placed a communications satellite in geostationary orbit, following a textbook launch from equatorial French Guiana early on Saturday.

The Ariane 4 rocket lifted off from the Kourou space pad at 0345 local time (0645 GMT) and placed the Intelsat 901 satellite in orbit above the Atlantic Ocean 20 minutes later.

The rocket lit up a slightly cloudy night sky and was visible from the ground for more than 90 seconds.

The satellite will provide telecommunications and television services to the Americas, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East during its 13-year mission.

The launch of the satellite had been delayed by a day because of high winds.

Experts have estimated the cost of putting Intelsat 901 into orbit at over $250m for the satellite itself, the launch and insurance.

Phased out

Ariane 4 was put into service in 1988. Saturday's was the 104th successful launch of an Ariane 4 rocket.

Ariane 4 was built in six different versions for launches of communications satellite payloads of up to five tonnes.

This model is set to be phased out after 12 more missions, when it will be replaced by Ariane 5- the most powerful rocket in the series.

Ariane 5 has already flown nine missions, eight of them successfully.

The next mission of the European space agency unmanned rocket is set for 12 July, when an Ariane 5 will place two satellites in orbit.

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See also:

07 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Mission success for beefed-up Ariane
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Space heavyweight blasts off
10 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Ariane soars to success
09 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
The roaring business of rockets
11 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Sea launch heralds new space era
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