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.
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.
After an unusual stretch of excessive high-altitude winds prevented launch from French Guiana of 53 small satellites on a Vega rocket in June — and no sign of a letup in winds in the coming days — Arianespace said Wednesday that the mission will be delayed to Aug. 17 to allow time for teams to recharge launcher and payload batteries.
After months of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Arianespace scrubbed back-to-back Vega launch attempts Saturday and Sunday due to unfavorable high-altitude winds over the European-run Guiana Space Center in South America. The Vega rocket is awaiting launch on a rideshare mission carrying 53 small satellites into orbit for 21 customers in 13 countries.