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.
With construction already underway at Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A on facilities for SpaceX’s next-generation Starship vehicle, another new fixture could soon rise at the seaside launch complex to satisfy U.S. military requirements to vertically integrate sensitive top secret spy satellites with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.