Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2009
Arianespace launches two spacecraft on missions to explore the universe.
Ariane 5 provided another demonstration of its operational flexibility in Arianespace service today by placing two payloads on their way to deep space missions that will provide new insights into the origins and future of our universe.
Departing the Spaceport in a rare morning liftoff, the heavy-lift Ariane 5 carried its Herschel and Planck passengers into a very elliptical orbit with a perigee of 270 km. and an apogee of nearly 1.2 million km. This will allow the two European Space Agency scientific spacecraft to subsequently perform the maneuvers enabling them to reach the Sun-Earth systemís second Lagrange point (L2), which is 1.5 million km. from Earth.
Ariane 5 lifted off on time from French Guiana at 10:12 a.m., and climbed out under a bright sun that penetrated the scattered clouds. The weather was "green" for the final countdown phase, and heavy rains of earlier in the morning had moved clear of the Spaceport for the liftoff. Tracking cameras followed the Ariane 5 downrange, including the separation of its two solid boosters -- which occurred 2 min. 18 sec. into the mission at an altitude of 67 kilometers.
The flight was Arianespace's first with payloads destined for L2, and it follows other missions performed by the company with spacecraft designed to explore the Moon, planets and comets -- as well as support human space exploration with the International Space Station.
In post-launch comments from the Spaceport's mission control center, Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall said todayís mission also marked a notable 30th straight success for Ariane 5.
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