Science & Environment

Ariane rocket completes flawless satellite launch

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Media captionThe Ariane 5 rocket was successfully launched

Europe's workhorse rocket, the Ariane 5, has placed another two commercial satellites in orbit.

The vehicle lifted off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, taking 38 minutes to complete its mission.

The 8.2-tonne payload included the W3B spacecraft, which will provide TV, radio, internet and other data services for the Paris-based operator Eutelsat.

These will be targeted at markets in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Indian Ocean islands.

Riding as a co-passenger was BSat-3b, a platform owned by Tokyo's B-Sat Corporation. Its satellite will deliver TV broadcasts to Japanese territories.

Image caption One of the Ariane's solid boosters is seen to separate and fall back to Earth

The rocket left the launch pad at 1851 local Kourou time (2151 GMT).

It was the fourth outing for an Ariane 5 in what has been a difficult year for Europe's heavy-lift rocket.

After setting a record mission rate of seven flights in 2009, launch attempts in the early months of this year experienced a series of frustrating postponements as engineers grappled with a faulty pressure regulator on the rocket's propellant system.

Nonetheless, Arianespace, the company that operates the Ariane 5, hopes to complete another two missions before the year is out.

The next flight is scheduled for 25 November. This will loft the Hylas-1 spacecraft, Europe's first broadband-dedicated satellite.

The spacecraft, owned by London-based Avanti Communications, will provide up to 10Mb/s connections to users in rural areas who are currently poorly served by terrestrial internet providers.

Its co-passenger will be Intelsat 17, a telecommunications satellite covering a region that will extend across Asia and into Europe and Africa.

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