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Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 13:40 GMT
Successful launch for Ariane

Ariane 5 AP
This was the second commercial launch of the rocket
Europe's new Ariane 5 rocket put two satellites into orbit on Tuesday.

The blast off from Kourou in French Guiana at 2028 local time (2328 GMT) was delayed for half an hour as mission controllers dealt with a technical problem and waited for a better weather window. It was only the second commercial launch for the rocket.

Ariane 5 is twice as heavy and twice as powerful as the Ariane 4 rocket and is designed to eventually take on payloads of up to 12 tonnes.

Its operators, Arianespace, hope to capture a significant slice of world's commercial satellite-launching market with the rocket, which is having to rebuild its reputation after a spectacular explosion on its first flight in 1996.

The payload on Tuesday included the 2.8-tonne Asiastar satellite, owned by the US consortium WorldSpace Corporation, which will beam digital radio programmes to Asia. WorldSpace has already launched a digital radio satellite for Africa and plans to launch another satellite to cover the Americas next year.

Launch costs

Asiastar was released 28 minutes into the flight. Six minutes later, Ariane 5 delivered into orbit an Indian Space Research Organisation satellite called Insat 3B. The two-tonne satellite will provide telecoms, television and mobile satellite services over India.

"Double launches allow us to reduce launch costs for our clients,'' Arianespace President Jean-Marie Luton told reporters. "It's a very important step for Arianespace's strategy to increase the number of double launches."

This was Ariane 5's fifth launch overall. The very first test flight ended in failure when the rocket exploded 37 seconds after launch destroying science satellites designed to study Earth's near-space environment.

Two successful test flights followed in 1997 and 1998. The first commercial launch last December then delivered into orbit Europe's most expensive science project ever - the XMM Newton observatory.

Four more Ariane 5 launches are scheduled for this year with the next on 23 May.

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10 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Ariane soars to success
09 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
The roaring business of rockets
09 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Space X-ray images revealed
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