Mission failure: Ariane 5 launcher explodes after take-off

December 13, 2002

Brussels, 12 Dec 2002

Approximately three minutes after take-off in Kourou, French Guiana on 11 December, Europe's Ariane 5 rocket exploded over the Atlantic. Data analysts are investigating the reason for the launch failure.

The launcher was developed by Arianespace, a commercial launch services company, and was carrying two satellites belonging to the European telecoms consortium Eutelsat and the French space research institute CNES.

This advanced rocket had a payload capacity of 10 tonnes, four tonnes more than the standard Ariane 5 launchers. This was achieved by increasing the performance of the its rocket motors and using advanced fuel pumps and larger fuel tanks.

'At this stage it is too early to give precise reasons for this failure,' said CEO of Arianespace, Jean-Yves Le Gall. 'Our job is difficult. It's at moments like this we are cruelly reminded of it. We have already known failures, we will know more,' he added.

The explosion marked the fourth failure and the third total loss of an Ariane 5 rocket in its 14 mission history, which dates back to 1996.

For further information, please visit: http://www.arianespace.com

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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