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Giant leap forward for Ariane 5
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Arrow  On 12 February 2005, the latest version of Ariane 5, designed to loft payloads of up to ten tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit, successfully completed its initial qualification flight. After a perfect lift-off from Kourou, French Guiana, Ariane Flight 164 released its payload into the predicted orbit.

Image: © ESA
Image: © ESA
After the flight, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said, “Less than one month after the descent of Huygens onto Titan, this launch has marked another great achievement for Europe in space and a further demonstration of European skills in this highly demanding technological field. Today’s success is also just reward for all the people, in industry and at agencies all over Europe, who have been working so hard to bring this launcher back into operational use.”

Success for Ariane 5 comes a little more than two years after the disappointment of it’s inaugural flight, when it went out of control and was destroyed just three minutes after lift-off. Since then, experts have refined the rocket, which Europe is counting on to maintain its edge in the lucrative satellite launcher market.

Europe’s competitive edge

Europe is still world leader in satellite launch services and is, in every way, a major force in global space activities, both commercial and political. “Guaranteed access to space is a pre-requisite for our success in space activities,” said Dordain, “and so it is our duty to maintain this capacity to the full.”

The latest launch paves the way for the commercial introduction of Ariane 5 ‘ECA’, due to replace the current Ariane 5G 'Generic' configuration.  Ariane 5 ECA is expected to become the new European workhorse for lifting heavy payloads into geostationary orbit and beyond. The next flight is scheduled for mid-2005.

Commercial and technology payloads

Ariane Flight 164 carried three payloads: XTAR-EUR, a 3600kg commercial X-band communication satellite flown on behalf of XTAR LLC, providing secure communications to government customers; and, flown on behalf of ESA, the Sloshsat FLEVO minisatellite and the Maqsat B2 instrumented model, stored inside the Sylda dual launch adapter.



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