For the sixth time this year Europe’s flagship spacelauncher, Ariane Five, has successfully put a double payload into orbit.
Ariane was carrying two satellites, the latest in the Hotbird series, and a joint European-Indian telecommunications payoad, W2M, with a combined weight of eight tons. Ariane can put a 10-ton load into orbit, and in the last year won 12 out of the 16 satellite launch contracts signed around the world, although the effects of the economic crisis are being felt in space too. Fewer contracts appear up for grabs next year. However 2009 will see two significant developments for Europe’s space industry. A Russian Soyuz will use the French-run Kourou launchpad on the equator for the first time, and the new smaller, and “low-cost” Vega launcher will make its first flight.