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Jon Howard
January 28, 2018

A European Ariane 5 rocket launched two communications satellites into the wrong orbit Thursday night, but both relay stations are healthy and should be able to use on-board thrusters to reach their intended operational orbits, officials said Friday.

An Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket carrying the SES-14 communications satellite, with NASA's GOLD instrument, and the Al Yah 3 satellite lifts off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana on January 25, 2018. Arianespace is now in the process of transitioning to its next medium-heavy lift rocket, Ariane 6, set to launch for the first time in 2020.

Israel apologised to customers for what he described as an "anomaly".

The Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A) - the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range of rockets - and was employed once again for this flight, a vehicle that is an improved version of the generic Ariane 5 launcher.

A few seconds later, the launch team at in the Jupiter control room announced ignition of the Ariane 5's upper stage HM7B engine, which consumes the same liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen mixture as the first stage.

The Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana carrying Luxembourg-based satellite operator's SES-14 and Al Yah 3 communications satellites, along with NASA's $53 million GOLD instrument created to study the Earth's upper atmosphere and space weather. GOLD, which is a bit bigger than a microwave, rode piggyback on SES-14.

Two commercial satellites and a NASA Earth-observation instrument managed to reach orbit despite a scare during liftoff today (Jan. 25).

GOLD will study Earth's upper atmosphere, especially the temperatures in the ionosphere and thermosphere, from its perch in geostationary orbit, about 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) up.

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SES 14 was built for a position in geostationary orbit around 47.5 degrees wast longitude. The satellite's pre-launch plans involved less than a month of orbit raising using chemical propulsion, according to manufacturer Orbital ATK.

The platform, built by Orbital ATK in the United States, carries a chemical propulsion system.

The spacecraft will support broadband Internet and data services over Africa and Brazil.

The operator said the 15-year lifetime of SES-14 had not been compromised.

However, it is also clear the Ariane 5 left the satellites in a less than ideal orbit.

Thursday night's launch was the first of seven Ariane 5 missions planned by Arianespace this year.

BepiColombo will kick off a seven-year journey to Mercury when it lifts off October 5. "Arianespace has set up an independent investigation commission chaired by ESA's General Inspector".

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