Ariane 5 Rocket Launches Two Satellites into Orbit

Ariane 5 Rocket Launch Scrubbed Due to Technical Glitch
India's Insat 4B communications satellite is mated to its Ariane 5 booster for a planned March 10, 2007 launch. (Image credit: Arianespace.)

Two new communications satellitesfor India and the British military blasted off Sunday, riding an Ariane 5 intoorbit one day after a launch pad glitch prevented a Saturday launch attempt.

The heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket hauled India's INSAT-4B broadcastsatellite and the British Ministry of Defense's Skynet-5A satellite into spaceat 6:03 p.m. EDT (2203 GMT) from a launch pad at Europe's Guiana Space Centerin Kourou, French Guiana.

A glitch with the water deluge system at the Ariane 5's launch pad,which is designed to suppress fire and sound during liftoff, preventeda Saturday launch attempt.

"This will be the first in what we believe will be an extremely busyyear," Arianespace CEO Jean Yves Le Gall said before launch, adding that themission is the first of at least six planned space shots for the launchprovider.

Built by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), INSAT 4B [image]is a 6,675-pound (3,028-kilogram) satellite designed to providetelecommunications and television broadcast services for customers in Indiafrom a geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles (36,000kilometers) above Earth.

Skynet-5A [image]is a 10,361-pound (4,700-kilogram) communications satellite built forthe British Ministry of Defense to aid British and NATO military forces, aswell as those of the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and other countries,Arianespace officials said.

Paradigm Secure Communications, a subdivision of Skynet-5A manufacturerEADS Astrium, will operate the satellite for the British defense ministry. Accordingto EADS Astrium, Paradigm holds a nearly $7 billion (5.3 billion Euro) contract to provide secure military satellite communications through2020.

Sunday's successful launch marked Arianespace's 175th flightof an Ariane booster and the 31st liftoff of the rocket family'sAriane 5 variant. It also marked Arianespace's 13th launch for theISRO, Indian space agency officials said, adding that INSAT-4B is alreadyreturning a healthy signal as it heads towards its final geosynchronous orbit.

"Of course, some believe that 13 is an unlucky number, but withArianespace it doesn't not seem to be so," ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair saidafter the launch.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.