KOUROU: Two commercial satellites have been placed in orbit by an Ariane 5 rocket but have yet to reach their correct position, Arianespace said Thursday, after mission control briefly lost contact with the craft.
The European space workhorse blasted off at 7.20 pm (2220 GMT) from the Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana carrying satellites for Luxembourg´s SES and the United Arab Emirate´s Yahsat in the first launch of the year for Arianespace.
For nearly 30 minutes mission controllers were left on tenterhooks when the rocket lost contact in what CEO Stephane Israel described as an “anomaly”.
But the team later received good news when the satellites chirped into contact.
“Both satellites were confirmed separated, acquired and they are on orbit,” Arianespace said in an updated statement after the initial lift-off scare.
The French-headquartered company said a tracking station in Brazil was unable to track the craft shortly after ignition of the rocket´s upper stage.
“This lack of telemetry lasted throughout the rest of powered flight,” the statement said. But both satellites were later “communicating with their respective control centres”.
But a source told AFP the satellites did not detach from the rocket in the correct place after the craft followed an “imperfect trajectory”.
Arianespace said they were currently “repositioning the satellites in the right place using their propulsion systems” adding that the current status was “reassuring after strong concerns”.
Since it was founded in 1980, Arianespace has put more than 550 satellites into orbit including for Europe´s Galileo GPS system.
In September the company aborted the launch of an Ariane 5 rocket carrying two commercial satellites in the final countdown as the main engine was being ignited.
An Ariane 5 lift-off was also aborted at main engine ignition in March 2011.