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Arian Success

(Note:  This is the booster that will be used to launchPhase 3D)

Ariane-5 Rocket Orbits Two Satellites 

By Stephane Urbajtel 

KOUROU, French Guiana (Reuters) - A West European Ariane-5 rocket has placed 
its heaviest load -- two large telecommunications satellites -- into orbit 
after its launch from French Guiana. 

The new generation rocket blasted off on schedule at 7.54 p.m. on Thursday 
from the Kourou space center, blazing a trail through equatorial clouds. 

The satellites will provide digital television services for Europe and 
Internet and radio services for the United States and the Caribbean, the 
launch company Arianespace said. 

The rocket carried the 3,315-kilo (7,308 lb) Astra B2 satellite and the 
1,987-kilo GE-7 satellite -- a total of nearly 5.3 tonnes, estimated to be 
worth $100 million each. 

Mission Director Philippe Rolland said Ariane 5 would be able to carry 
payloads of up to 12 tonnes within five to seven years. 

In development since the late 1980s, the Ariane-5 has had a turbulent past. 
Its first test flight in 1996 exploded 37 seconds after launch destroying 
satellites worth $500 million and the first commercial flight only took place 
late last year. 

French Research Minister Roger-Gerard Schwartzenberg, who attended the 
launch, said nine Ariane-5 rockets would be used to supply the international 
space station due to be operational in 2005 in a joint venture between 
western Europe, the United States, Russia and Japan. 

Thursday's launch was the sixth for Ariane 5 and its third commercial flight. 
The launch had been delayed from July after tests on the thrusters revealed 

Arianespace still has 37 heavy satellite launches on its order book. The West 
European consortium plans six more launches from Kourou by the end of this 
year, two of them Ariane-5s. 

The rocket placed Astra 2B into orbit for Luxembourg-based satellite operator 
SES and a GE-7 satellite for GE Americom, the satellite-services unit of 
General Electric Co.. 

Astra 2B separated from the rocket 28 minutes after launch. Built in France 
by ASTRIUM, a joint venture of the newly created European aerospace giant 
EADS and British Aerospace, it will provide digital television services for 
Europe over the next 15 years. 

GE-7, built by Lockheed Martin, separated nine minutes later. It is due to 
provide radio and Internet services for the United States and the Caribbean. 

SES Director-General Romain Bausch estimated the cost of the two satellites 
at $100 million each. 

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