Ariane 5 powers satellite into orbit

All goes well at fourth lift off attempt

Ariane 5 is go, at the fourth time of asking. Just 28 minutes after lift off, the rocket released its payload, a huge satellite, which will provide broadband coverage for remote areas across much of the North American continent. By this time, the craft was travelling at 8650 metres per second, and had reached an altitude of around 1610km. Once it has settled into its geostationary orbit, the six tonne satellite will deploy a solar array with a span of 48 metres.

The Ariane 5 blasts off. Photo: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE/Photo Service Optique CSG

The first three launches were abandoned because of anomalous data and poor weather. Success at this fourth launch attempt was vital for Arianespace, whose reputation has been hurt by a badly-failed launch. In December 2002, an Ariane 5 rocket went off course shortly after launch and self-destructed. Ariane 5 is the European Space Agency's only craft at the moment, as the Ariane 4 is officially retired.

The satellite will be operated by Canadian comms firm Telesat. As well as supplying general broadband coverage, the satellite will be used in a pilot project called Telecare, a system that will enable virtual visits from nurses to patients in remote areas. It will also be used in e-learning schemes.

In March this year, the Ariane 5 successfully launched the Rosetta comet-chasing mission into space. This launch is the first since then, making it two good launches in a row. ®

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