Europe's powerful Ariane 5 rocket will fly for the first time in nearly a year today (July 30), and you can watch the liftoff live.
An Ariane 5 topped with two communications satellites is scheduled to launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, this evening during a 90-minute window that opens at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT). You can watch the action live here at Space.com, courtesy of Ariane 5 operator Arianespace, or directly via the French company (opens in new tab).
One satellite going up today is Star One D2, which will be operated by Brazilian telecom company Embratel. The spacecraft will allow Embratel "to expand broadband coverage to new regions in Central and South America, provide internet access to underserved populations and add an updated X-band payload for government use over the Atlantic region," Arianespace representatives wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
The other satellite aboard the Ariane 5 is Eutelsat Quantum, which was developed jointly by French company Eutelsat, Airbus Defence and Space and the European Space Agency. Eutelsat will operate the satellite, which features an active antenna that's "a first for the European commercial telecommunications industry," Arianespace representatives wrote in the mission description.
The Ariane 5 last flew in August 2020. On two separate launches that year, the rocket experienced some problems with the system that enables separation of its payload fairing, the nose cone that protects payloads during launch. Both of those missions were successful, but Arianespace took the Ariane 5 out of action to troubleshoot the issue, as Space News reported (opens in new tab).
NASA will doubtless be watching this evening's launch — and another Ariane 5 liftoff scheduled for September — with great interest. One of the agency's most highly anticipated missions, the $9.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope, will launch on an Ariane 5 from Kourou this fall.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.