European Rocket Set to Launch Two Communications Satellites

Ariane 5 rocket launches two satellites into orbit on July 5, 2012.
An Ariane 5 ascends from French Guiana at sunset with the EchoStar 17 and MSG-3 satellite payloads into orbit from Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff occurred on July 5, 2012. (Image credit: Arianespace)

A European Ariane 5 rocket saddled with two communications satellites is set to launch today (Aug. 2) from French Guiana.

The rocket has been rolled out to its launch pad at the Guiana Space Center and is scheduled to lift off between 5:54 p.m. and 6:51 p.m. local time (4:54 p.m. and 5:51 p.m. EDT, or 2054 and 2151 GMT), according to a statement from France-based launch company Arianespace.

The Ariane 5 booster will haul into space the HYLAS 2, a commercial satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corp. that features a Ka-band communications payload to provide data and video services to Eastern and Southern Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The rocket will also carry the Intelsat 20, a satellite built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., to provide data capacity to European, Middle Eastern and African customers.

Intelsat 20 will be deployed first, 28 minutes after liftoff, and HYLAS 2 will be released 34 minutes into the flight, Arianespace officials said.

A successful launch would mark the fourth Ariane 5 mission of 2012, and the rocket family's 208th flight since 1979. Arianespace's last launch, on July 5, carried an American communications satellite and a European weather-monitoring satellite into orbit.

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Megan Gannon Contributing Writer

Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity on a Zero Gravity Corp. to follow students sparking weightless fires for science. Follow her on Twitter for her latest project.