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France Launches Rocket

March 1, 2002

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PARIS (AP) _ An Ariane-5 rocket blasted into space early Friday from its base in French Guiana, releasing an environment-monitoring satellite into orbit, officials said.

The Ariane-5′s lift-off from the European Space Agency’s base in Kourou, late Thursday French Guiana time, came seven months after the program was grounded because of the flawed launch of two telecommunications satellites.

Minutes after reaching orbit, the rocket released the ESA’s Envisat satellite.

The Ariane-5 is the latest and most powerful in the European agency’s line of unmanned Ariane rockets and is the centerpiece of Europe’s effort to lead the commercial launch market.

The earlier aborted launch was blamed on the early shutdown of an upper stage of the rocket. The successful launch was the 148th since the 13-nation European Space Agency began operations in 1979.

The ESA described its Envisat spacecraft as Europe’s most powerful Earth-observation satellite. Data collected will be used by scientists studying the rate at which polar ice caps are melting, the health of rain forests, El Nino currents in the Pacific Ocean, the concentration of harmful greenhouse gases and whether the ozone hole is growing.

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