A European rocket will launch a space tug and 2 satellites today. Here's how to watch live.

Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket for the VA253 flight seen on its way to the launch pad in French Guiana on July 30, 2020.
Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket for the VA253 flight seen on its way to the launch pad in French Guiana on July 30, 2020. (Image credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace plans to send a satellite-servicing vehicle — along with two satellites — into space on today (July 31) and you can watch the launch online.

The launch will take place between 6:30 p.m. and 7:16 p.m. local time in Kourou, French Guiana (5:30 p.m. and 6:16 p.m. EDT, or 2130 and 2216 GMT). You can watch the launch live here (opens in new tab) and on Space.com's homepage, courtesy of Arianespace. You can also tune direcely to Arianespace's webcast on YouTube (opens in new tab). The webcast will begin about 20 minutes before liftoff.

This launch will be the fifth for Arianespace in 2020. The mission was delayed from its previous Tuesday (July 28) launch date due to "additional technical checks required under the fairing and the Ariane dual-launch system," Arianespace said in a statement (opens in new tab), but the satellites are otherwise ready to go.

Related: Two private satellites just docked in space in historic first

The satellite servicing spacecraft, called Mission Extension Vehicle 2 (MEV-2) on the Ariane 5 rocket is the second one built by Northrop Grumman subsidiary SpaceLogistics LLC for satellite communications provider Intelsat. The first MEV, MEV-1, performed a first, historic docking in February with the Intelsat satellite and a IS-901, which was low on fuel. The long-term aim of the MEV series is to refuel and service aging satellites in orbit to extend their missions, which could be a cheaper option than sending up a replacement satellite.

With the MEV-1 mission deemed a success in April — the Intelsat-901 satellite  returned to its normal work that month, Intelsat said in a statement (opens in new tab) — MEV-2 is set for launch to rendezvous with another Intelsat satellite, called Intelsat 1002. 

"Once docked, it [MEV-2] will control the orbit of the customer satellite using its own thrusters," Arianespace said in a statement (opens in new tab), adding that the vehicle will be available for other missions after servicing the Intelsat satellite.

Two Northrop Grumman-built satellites, Mission Extension Vehicle 2 and Galaxy 30, seen before their launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.  (Image credit: Northrop Grumman)

Stacked with the MEV-2 will be an Intelsat satellite called Galaxy 30, the first replacement satellite in a larger effort to replace Intelsat's aging North American Galaxy communications satellites. The new satellites will offer ultra-high definition media service allowing customers to bypass companies for direct satellite streaming and a range of broadband, mobile and network services, Arianespace said in the same statement.

Rounding out the payloads will be the Maxar BSAT-4b satellite launched on behalf of Japan's Broadcasting Satellite System Corp. The satellite will be used for direct-to-home television service in Japan and serve as a backup for the similar BSAT-4a, which launched in September 2017.

Today's launch will be the 253rd Ariane mission overall. Arianespace is developing a successor rocket, Ariane 6, that will eventually replace the launch services provided by the heavy-lift Ariane 5.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace

  • Eva Braun
    The UK company Skyrora also produces space tugs thus providing space services to satellites in orbit and future orbital spacecraft.
    Reply