Ariane 5 Rocket Lofts 2 Satellites into Orbit in Gorgeous Sunset Launch

An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched two new communications satellites into orbit Thursday (June 20) after a gorgeous sunset liftoff from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

The rocket lifted off right on schedule at 6:43 p.m. local time in Kourou (5:43 p.m. EDT; 2143 GMT), only 2 minutes before sunset. It carried payloads for two world-class satellite operators: AT&T's T-16 satellite (also known as DirecTV 16), and the Eutelsat 7C satellite for the Paris-based company Eutelsat Communications, according to a statement by Arianespace.

This marks the fifth launch this year for the European company Arianespace, the world's first commercial launch service provider, and the company's second launch of an Ariane 5 rocket this year.

In Photos: Ariane 5 Rocket Launches DirecTV 16 and Eutelsat 7C Satellites

The T-16 is the 11th satellite launched by Arianespace for AT&T, following SKY Mexico-1 and DirecTV 15, which launched in May 2015, and SKY Brasil-1 that launched in February 2017. T-16 will provide high-power broadcast services covering the United States, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Eutelsat 7C is the 33rd satellite that Arianespace has launched for Eutelsat Communications. The first, Eutelsat-1 F1, launched in 1983. Like DirecTV 16, this payload is a high-power broadcast satellite, but it will serve markets in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Turkey. 

Eutelsat 7C will help to boost broadband coverage over sub-Saharan Africa, which will help accommodate the region's expanding TV market, according to Arianespace. "We look forward to putting it into service and continue building the momentum at this location," Yohann Leroy, Eutelsat's deputy chief executive and chief technology officer, said in a speech following the launch.

Both satellites safely arrived in geostationary transfer orbit in a relatively short amount of time. DirecTV 16 was the first to separate from the rocket's upper stage at approximately 28 minutes after liftoff, and it was followed by Eutelsat 7C about 6 minutes later. 

Following this launch, Arianespace has been contracted to launch seven more Eutelsat satellites that will join the company's growing fleet.


Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Passant Rabie
Former Contributing Writer

Passant Rabie is an award-winning journalist from Cairo, Egypt. Rabie moved to New York to pursue a master's degree in science journalism at New York University. She developed a strong passion for all things space, and guiding readers through the mysteries of the local universe. Rabie covers ongoing missions to distant planets and beyond, and breaks down recent discoveries in the world of astrophysics and the latest in ongoing space news. Prior to moving to New York, she spent years writing for independent media outlets across the Middle East and aims to produce accurate coverage of science stories within a regional context.