Inquiry into Ariane 5's launch failure starts 16 Dec

KOUROU: The independent inquiry board that will determine the causes of Flight 157's launch failure will begin its work on 16 December 2002. The attempted first flight of the Ariane 5-ESCA which took place on 11 December was designed to catapult 10 tonnes of payload into orbit and place Western Europe in toe-to-toe combat with the US for domination of the satellite launch market.

The board has the task of determining the source of in-flight problems on the first mission of the "10-ton" Ariane 5, and to assess what effect this failure will have on the flights of the basic Ariane 5 launcher version.

In an official statement, Arianespace claimed that the rocket had veered off-course at a height of 120 kilometres, which prompted the mission control to push the self-destruct button.The remains of the rocket and the two satellites it was carrying - - - Hotbird 7 for Eutelsat, and Stentor, an experimental communications satellite for the French space research institute CNES - - - tumbled into the Atlantic. Approximately three minutes after lift-off, an anomaly occurred, thus ending the flight 157 mission.

However, according to the official statement, Arianespace's next mission - - - an Ariane 4 launch with the New Skies Satellites' NSS-6 telecommunications spacecraft - - - remains on schedule for a 17 December liftoff.

The reports also indicated that Arianespace was simlutaneously continuing with the preparations for the upcoming Ariane 5 mission. The mission will use a basic Ariane 5 launcher to place Europe's Rosetta scientific spacecraft on a deep-space trajectory to rendezvous with a comet. This scheduled to take place on 12 January.

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