Views from an airliner, close-up high-speed launch pad cameras, and photographers around the Guiana Space Center in the jungle of South America show the twilight launch of a European Ariane 5 rocket Saturday with three commercial satellites heading for orbits more than 22,000 miles over the equator.
An Ariane 5 rocket delivered a robotic space tug and a pair of commercial communications satellites into orbit Saturday following a fiery blastoff from French Guiana, debuting new upgrades in Arianespace’s first mission since temporarily suspending launch operations earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two weeks after a sensor problem forced a delay, an Ariane 5 rocket blasted off at 6:04 p.m. EDT (2204 GMT) Saturday from French Guiana with two commercial communications satellites to cover the United States and Japan, and a Northrop Grumman-built robotic satellite servicing mission designed to link up with another spacecraft in geostationary orbit.
Loaded with three commercial satellites, a European Ariane 5 rocket returned to its launch pad in French Guiana Thursday after a two-week launch delay to resolve a technical issue that forced an abort to a countdown July 31. Arianespace says the mission has been rescheduled for launch Saturday due to unfavorable upper level winds in the forecast for Friday.
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.