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New Ariane’s 30th birthday -
Ariane’s 30th birthday
30 years ago, on Christmas Eve, Arianespace launched its first Ariane rocket from its new spaceport at Kourou on the edge of the massive Amazon rain forest.
Arianespace had previously used a launch site in the Sahara desert, and at Kourou in French Guiana it had launched plenty of military missions from 1968 on. But on the night of Dec 24 1979 the launch operation came into its own by using a new Launch Assembly building permitting one Ariane rocket to be on the launch pad while another was being assembled in readiness for launch.
Ariane flight 1 placed a satellite into orbit (for the European Space Agency). It was very much a test flight and designed to act as a radio beacon on the actual rocket’s progress. The on-board batteries were only good for 8 orbits of the planet, yet even though its batteries have long since died it is reportedly still in orbit.
The Ariane craft achieved what no other European rocket had ever achieved: all three stages ignited without problems, the rocket reached a height of 218 kilometres and put a 1.6 ton instrument capsule into orbit.
People often ask ‘why Kourou?’ The answer is easy: The site is relatively unpopulated; it is almost on the Equator, and thus can exploit a near-perfect position for launching; the site has uninterrupted ocean to its East and North, thus being easily and safely able to launch Equatorial and Polar satellites.
Happy birthday Ariane.
© Rapid TV News 2009