Azara Blog: Ariane 5-ECA rocket launches successfully

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Date published: 2005/02/13

The BBC says:

Europe has launched its most powerful rocket to date - the Ariane 5-ECA.

The 50m-high (160ft) vehicle blasted off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 2103 GMT, putting eight tonnes of satellite payload into orbit.

It was the ECA's first flight following its disastrous maiden outing in 2002, when the rocket was destroyed as it veered out of control over the ocean.

Launch company Arianespace believes the vehicle will be crucial in helping it maintain a strong market position.

"This is the success we all waited for, and I thank all those who contributed," said Arianespace chief Jean-Yves Le Gall. "This launch erases the failure of December 2002."

The ECA should substantially reduce the costs of lofting spacecraft, down from between $30-40,000 per kg to $15-20,000 per kg.

The rocket can deliver several satellites at once, taking a maximum of 10 tonnes into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Saturday's mission, described as a qualification flight, orbited two satellites: the Spanish XTAR-EUR military communications payload and an experimental spacecraft, called SloshSat, which will study how fluids behave in orbit.
Arianespace operates Europe's rockets under a charter of the European Space Agency.

It is owned by a grouping of European governments, aerospace firms, banks and the French space agency CNES.

The French minister for research, Francois D'Aubert, saluted the engineers and scientists at Kourou.

"This success has particular symbolic value," he said. "It's a question of sovereignty; a launch capability is a vital instrument for European governments.

"It gives them guaranteed access to space and gives them the information they need for political, economic and scientific reasons."

US company Boeing recently launched its biggest-lift rocket, the Delta 4-Heavy, which has the capability to put 13 tonnes of payload into a geostationary transfer orbit.

However, the Boeing vehicle is not currently being offered to the commercial satellite sector and is being reserved for US military work.

Three cheers for Europe. The crucial point is that "it's a question of sovereignty; a launch capability is a vital instrument for European governments", especially given the current American government.

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