Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Europe's mighty Ariane rocket carried two telecommunications satellites into earth orbit this evening on the final space shot of the year.
Moments after the setting sun dropped below the South American horizon, the pride of the European Space Agency illuminated the darkening sky as the Ariane 5 soared from it's pad.
Riding on twin solid rocket boosters and a core main engine, the Ariane 5 launched on time at 4:27:07 pm EST tonight, from pad ELV-3 at the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana.
It was the sixth launch of 2010 for the heavy lifter, and will mark the fifty-fifth for the Ariane 5 program.
The 165-foot launcher shot through scattered clouds at 31,000 feet and out over the southern Atlantic Ocean in a beautiful sunset flight.
It was the second launch attempt in as many days.
As the final minutes ticked away on Tuesday's first attempt, the count was halted at T-7 minutes and eventually scrubbed due to upper level winds over Kourou.
Just over twenty-seven minutes in the flight, the Hispasat 1E - which rode to orbit at the top of the nose cone - separated.
The twin solar arrays will deploy to charge the batteries, and a series of four burns and a few maneuvers will occur over the coming weeks to position the satellite over 30-degrees West longitude.
Seven minutes later, the Koreasat 6 was then released on it's own and will head for a geostationary orbit over 116 degrees East. It will replace the Koreasat 3.
Koreasat will span 59 feet across space from one solar array tip to the second array tip, and also maneuver over the coming weeks into it's location.
The next Ariane 5 flight is scheduled for February, and will mark the 200th Ariane launch in the program's thirty-one year history.
Ariane 5 ES will carry aloft the European Automated Transfer Vehicle 2 on a resupply flight to the International Space Station.
Lift-off is planned for February 15 at 5:05 pm (22:05 GMT) from Kourou.