At exactly 17:26 (CET) this afternoon Flight 165 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its northward mission to Sun-synchronous orbit. This is the 17th commercial mission of the Ariane 5 Generic launcher.
Onboard the launcher is France’s Helios IIA satellite, developed and built in cooperation with Belgium and Spain. Accompanying Helios are another six small satellites: four French Essaim micro-satellite demonstrators; the CNES Parasol payload to study the Earth’s climate; and the Spanish Nanosat micro-satellite technology demonstrator.
Formal go ahead for liftoff was received on 16 December following the review validating the flight readiness of the launcher plus its payload, the infrastructure at the Spaceport and the network of tracking stations. The launcher was then transferred from the Final Assembly Building to the ELA-3 launch zone for final preparation prior to launch.
The next liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport - the qualification flight of Europe’s new launcher the Ariane 5 ECA - is scheduled for early 2005.