February 24, 2006

New Delay for Heavy-lift Ariane-5 Rocket Launch

CAYENNE (Reuters) - The launch of a heavy-lift Ariane-5 rocket carrying two satellites was postponed in French Guiana on Friday for the second time this week due to a new technical fault, space officials said.

Officials of the Arianespace rocket launch company said a new launch date would be announced in several hours. They said one of the launch customers had requested further checks of a telemetry circuit.

A first launch date on Tuesday was scrubbed when a problem linking the rocket to the launch-pad was detected.

The rocket -- capable of launching satellite payloads of up to 10 metric tonnes (22,000 lb) -- was to have launched Spainsat, a Spanish military communications satellite and Hot Bird 7A for Paris-based telecoms operator Eutelsat from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.

The maiden flight of the heavy-lift version of the Ariane-5 rocket ended in disaster in 2002 when it veered off course over the Atlantic Ocean. After modifications, the rocket was successfully launched twice in 2005.