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Ariane launches satellites for Australia, Japan

A European Ariane rocket successfully placed into orbit communications satellites for Australia and Japan on Wednesday.

tech reviews Updated: Jun 26, 2003 13:20 IST

A European Ariane rocket successfully placed into orbit communications satellites for Australia and Japan after a launch from French Guiana late on Wednesday.

The Ariane-5 rocket lifted-off from the European Space Agency (EAS) launch centre in Kourou, French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America at 7.39 p.m. (2239 GMT).

The launch was delayed for one hour due to high altitude winds.

Twenty-eight minutes after launch, the rocket released the Optus and Defence C1 satellite.

Optus is designed to provide civilian telecommunications services to Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Hawaii. It will also be used by Australia's Ministry of Defence.

Designed to operate for 15 years in space, Optus weighed 4.7 metric tonnes (10,300 lb) at launch and was built by an industrial team led by Mitsubishi Electric Co. (6503.T). Space Systems/Loral (LOR.N) and Raytheon Systems (RTN.N) were major subcontractors.

Eight minutes later, the rocket released BSAT-2c. This satellite will beam digital direct-to-home television throughout Japan.

Built by Orbital Sciences Corp (ORB.N) of Dulles, Virginia, BSAT weighed 1.2 tonnes (2,800 lb) and was designed to operate for 10 years.

EUROPE TO BAILOUT ARIANE

Last month, European governments agreed to a $1 billion bailout for the ailing Ariane rocket programme.

Ariane-5, has suffered from poor reliability since its 1996 introduction flight exploded less than a minute after lift-off.

Last December, an upgraded Ariane-5 with a 10 metric tonne lift capacity malfunctioned sending two satellites crashing into the ocean.

Demand for commercial launch services has also contributed to Ariane's woes with capacity outstripping demand since 2001. Fewer commercial satellite ventures have been funded in the aftermath of the high-profile bankruptcies in the telecoms sector.

US rivals have fared better with military launches financed by the Pentagon taking up the slack for disappearing civilian programmes.

The ESA has also approved a restructuring of the European space sector shifting responsibility for Ariane-5's design and manufacturing from the French Space agency (CNES) to Europe's industrial giant EADS (EAD.PA) (EAD.DE).

First Published: Jun 12, 2003 19:34 IST