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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 11:26 GMT
Europe's launcher back in action
Ariane, Esa
The Ariane 5 is fighting for orders
The Ariane 5 rocket is likely to fly again early next month, say officials at Arianespace.

The launch, involving the older version of the vehicle, will be the first since a new "heavy-lift" rocket blew up over the Atlantic after veering off course.

It comes at a crucial time for Arianespace, already struggling with a shrinking satellite market and increased competition from other launchers.

The precise launch date has not been set, but the company says it should happen in early April.

Job cuts

This coincides with news that a quarter of the workforce at the Kourou launch site in French Guiana is to be cut.

moon smart
One of the first Ariane 5 launches will send Europe's Smart 1 mission to the Moon

The 400 jobs are thought to relate mainly to the Ariane 4 programme, which is winding down now that the older launcher has been withdrawn from service.

A new attempt to launch the larger Ariane 5-ECA (ESC-A) has not yet been scheduled, and an even larger launcher, the ESC-B, has been shelved for the time being.

European Space Agency officials investigated December's failure, concluding that components in the new version were to blame for the failure.

This effectively gave the established Ariane 5 launcher - in service since 1999 - a clean bill of health; although investigators still demanded a thorough review of systems.

Comet chaser

The Ariane 5 launch will carry two telecommunications satellites, including one for the Indian Space Research Organisation.

One of the biggest casualties of the suspension of launches was the Rosetta "comet chaser" mission, which was forced to select a new comet target after the delay meant it would miss its rendezvous with its preferred comet.

The commercial satellite market is becoming increasingly pressured, with more launchers competing for fewer payloads.

The cost of delivering a satellite into orbit has plummeted by a third over the past few years.

Arianespace, which posted a large loss in 2001, has the additional disadvantage of relying far more heavily on the commercial market than its US competitors, which have a large proportion of their work provided by the US military.

Europe's super rocket explodes
12 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Blow to launcher market
12 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Ariane 5: A short history
12 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Engine glitch brought down rocket
07 Jan 03  |  Science/Nature

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