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Ariane 5 places spacecraft in wrong orbit
Posted: Fri, Jul 13, 2001, 8:55 AM ET (1255 GMT)
Ariane 5 liftoff on Flight 142 A problem with the upper stage of an Ariane 5 booster stranded two communications satellites in low orbits late Thursday. The Ariane 5 lifted off on Flight 142 at 5:58 pm EDT (2158 GMT) Thursday from Kourou, French Guiana. The launch appeared to take place without problems, but an hour after liftoff Arianespace officials reported that a problem with the booster's upper stage left its payload in a low transfer orbit, with an apogee of only 17,500 km, half of the planned altitude of 35,800 km. An investigation into the upper stage problem is underway, and additional details about what Arianespace described as a "defect" may be released as early as Friday. The Ariane 5 was carrying two satellites, the Japanese BSAT-2b direct TV broadcasting satellite and Artemis, an experimental communications satellite for the European Space Agency. Engineers believe it is possible that at least Artemis can be salvaged by using its built-in thrusters to put the spacecraft into a proper orbit, but with a shortened lifetime. If neither satellite can be salvaged the total loss could approach $1 billion. The failure is a big blow to Arianespace, which plans to transition entirely to the Ariane 5 over the next few years.
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