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Satellites orbiting after losing contact with rocket

January 26, 2018

Two satellites have been successfully launched into orbit despite French firm Arianespace losing contact with its rocket. NASA also breathed a sigh of relief, as equipment for its latest mission was also on board.

Ariane 5 rocket launch in November 2016
Image: picture alliance/dpa/S Martin/Arianespace Cnes/Csg/ARIANESPACE/dpa

The first launch of the year for French launch services firm Arianespace got off to a rocky start on Thursday, when mission control briefly lost contact with its rocket.

The Ariane 5 rocket carrying two commercial satellites launched at 7:20 p.m. local time (2220 GMT) from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana.

Around an hour later, Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel announced that the controllers "lost contact" with the craft, saying it was an "anomaly."

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Shortly afterwards, the company released an updated statement that said the satellites were "communicating with their respective control centers" and that they were orbiting.

Arianespace said a tracking station in Brazil was unable to track the Ariane 5 rocket shortly after the ignition of the rocket's upper stage.

"This lack of telemetry lasted throughout the rest of powered flight," the statement said.

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NASA mission on board

The two satellites belonged to Luxembourg's SES and the United Arab Emirates' Yahsat.

Besides the two satellite communications companies, NASA was also relieved that contact was eventually made to the satellites.

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The SES-14 is carrying equipment for the US space agency's latest "NASA GOLD" mission to study Earth's boundary to outer space as well as space weather.

Arianespace has launched over 550 satellites into orbit since it was founded in 1980. Several of its satellite "passengers" have included the European Space Agency's (ESA) Galileo GPS system.

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rs/sms  (AFP, dpa)