A French-built Ariane 2 rocket flawlessly boosted a Nordic television satellite into orbit Saturday night, 24 hours late because of technical problems, in the 12th success in a row for the European space program.
The 162-foot liquid-fueled Ariane thundered to life at 9:28 p.m. EST and vaulted away from its firing stand at the European Space Agency's jungle launch complex on the northern coast of South America, lighting up the night sky as it rocketed skyward and arced east over the Atlantic Ocean.Nineteen minutes later, the rocket's payload, a 2,800-pound television relay station called TELE-X, was ejected into a preliminary egg-shaped "transfer orbit" as planned. If all goes well, on-board rocket thrusters will be used later in the week to circularize the satellite's orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles.
The rocket's first countdown Friday night was halted about seven minutes before liftoff after launch controllers detected a faulty helium valve in ground support equipment and telemetry problems with the sleek rocket.
The flight is the 30th since the Ariane rocket fleet debuted in December 1979 and the third of nine scheduled for 1989 by Arianespace, the European consortium that markets Ariane launch services. The planned flight came just 26 days after the successful launch of a more-powerful Ariane 4 March 6.