Europe’s iconic Ariane 5 rocket, with its liquid hydrogen-fueled core stage and solid rocket boosters, has been symbolic of Europe’s guaranteed access to space providing a unique capacity for launching satellites and spacecraft into precise orbits over almost three decades. Its long run comes to an end when the final Ariane 5 rocket lifts off on Wednesday.
The last Ariane 5 rocket was hauled to the launch pad on Monday at the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s South American spaceport. Ariane 5, which for years was the world’s leading commercial satellite launcher, is scheduled to make its final lift off on Tuesday, carrying a French military satellite and a communications technology testbed spacecraft for Germany.
After the threat of lightning kept the mission on the ground Thursday, Arianespace and the European Space Agency successfully launched an Ariane 5 rocket Friday from Kourou, French Guiana, with the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, a robotic spacecraft embarking on an eight-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet. Liftoff with ESA’s JUICE spacecraft occurred at 8:14 a.m. EDT (1214 UTC).