Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Europe's most powerful rocket launched successfully

The Ariane 5-ECA first flew in 2002. The maiden outing was a disaster - a left-over variable, from Ariane-4 software, overflowed causing the control system to malfunction. The rocket veered over the ocean and had to be destroyed.

Last Saturday, it flew again. This time it was a "perfect launch on a perfect day".

The Ariane 5-ECA is Europe's most powerful rocket to date. It can put upto 10 tonnes into geostationary orbit (ISRO is still struggling with a 1 tonne payload). Moreover the costs of putting spacecraft into orbit should come down from between $30-40,000 per kg to $15-20,000 per kg - half!

Saturday's mission, described as a qualification flight, orbited two satellites: the Spanish XTAR-EUR military communications payload and an experimental spacecraft, called SloshSat, which will study how fluids behave in orbit.