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On 5 October 2016, Ariane 5 flight VA231 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana and delivered two telecom satellites, Sky Muster II and GSAT-18, into their planned orbits.
After satellite separation, the upper stage coasted for another 30 minutes to mimic the longer missions of Ariane 6. During this time, 65 sensors and a camera inside the liquid hydrogen tank observed the propellant’s behaviour under microgravity as the stage manoeuvred. The collected data, returned through the New Norcia ground station in Australia, will help in designing the Ariane 6 upper stage.
With 74 successful launches in a row, Ariane 5 matches the reliability of Ariane 4.