Arianespace is returning an Ariane 5 rocket — loaded with three U.S.-built satellites — back to its final assembly building in French Guiana to replace a suspect sensor on the vehicle that prompted officials to cancel a launch attempt Friday. Arianespace said Monday that the swap will delay the launch until around Aug. 14.
Arianespace’s third Ariane 5 launch of the year was set liftoff Friday from Kourou, French Guiana, but an issue with a sensor on the rocket’s first stage liquid hydrogen tank caused officials to scrub the launch attempt. The Ariane 5 is poised to carry three U.S.-built commercial satellites into orbit, while testing a few rocket upgrades, including a modified fairing needed for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope next year.
NASA officials said Thursday the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed seven months to Oct. 31, 2021, a schedule slip that takes into account work slowdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the amount of testing required on the observatory before its shipment to French Guiana for liftoff on a European Ariane 5 rocket.
The next flight of Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket, set for July 28 from French Guiana, will carry a record payload of three multi-ton satellites toward geostationary orbit, including a pair of U.S.-built commercial communications payloads and Northrop Grumman’s second robotic satellite servicing spacecraft.